The Farmer Information Group is a Defra-hosted forum where key industry stakeholders and the different parts of Defra work together to establish how best to coordinate and improve communications with Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) customers in England – farmers, land managers and others. A meeting of the group on 21 May in Reading saw a full demonstration of the new ‘CAP Information Service’, the new single online information, application and payment service for all the new Common Agricultural Policy schemes.
Although many of the stakeholders had seen different bits of the service before, this was the first time that they had seen a complete demonstration of what customers will be able to do ahead of 2015; register for CAP Information Service, view, check and update their personal, business and land details, and give permission for others, such as agents, to use the service on their behalf. Stakeholders gave good feedback on what the service looks like and its ease of use. We also got useful ideas on how we might improve the guidance on particular parts of the service, to make it as easy to understand and use as possible.
For CAP Information Service to be successful, we will need stakeholders to support the gradual introduction of the service to customers from summer 2014. Their feedback and involvement in forums like the Farmer Information Group are essential to this. Along with asking customers to test the service for us, stakeholder feedback is one of the most important ways we can make sure CAP Information Service is right for everyone.
The group also had a presentation from Defra’s Rural Communities Policy Unit about what the Government is doing to get broadband introduced across rural areas and the plans for improving mobile phone coverage in rural areas. Superfast broadband is now available to 73% of UK premises – up from 45% in 2010. The Government is investing £780m to provide 95% of UK premises with superfast broadband coverage by 2017 (and universal coverage of standard broadband) and is exploring how to reach the final 5% of hard to reach areas. There`s a lot more information about what`s happening locally in individual projects, which can be explored using this map.
Customers wishing to apply for CAP schemes and claim payments in 2015 will need a certain broadband speed to register for and use CAP Information Service (a download speed of 1Mbps or more – if you’ve got a slower connection, the service won’t work as well) and there is a helpful tool on the Ofcom website that helps you to check local broadband speeds.