British Cattle Movement Service [BCMS] and the Rural Payments Agency [RPA]. 
 
 
I didn't mention my adventures with the British Cattle Movement Service [BCMS] and the Rural Payments Agency [RPA]. 
 
I only have six suckler cows, for goodness sake - and I am capable of making mistakes with the best of them - but the systems seem so CUMBERSOME and so plainly vulnerable to mistakes...  It is hard enough to get the right data entered and recognised when you are honest and trying to get it right.  A system so inefficient and leaky must be wide open to fraud.  I agree with whomsoever wrote recently that the rising tide to paperwork, licences, etc. favour the farmer who is adept at writing fiction.
 
I made an application for one of the only two subsidies we claim - the Suckler Cow Premium Scheme - on 5th December last year.  The scheme is simple enough.  You must have permission - 'quota' - to claim the subsidy.  [We were originally given quota for six cows - the labyrinthine workings of our government and the EU has now whittled this down to 5.7 cows...  - Don't ask what 0.7 of a cow looks like on the hoof.]  You inform the RPA that you are keeping the requisite number of cows and give them their individual identifying numbers.  The RPA confirm these and tell you the dates between which you must keep them [or agreed replacements if any mishap befalls any of them] on your farm.  The honesty of your claim can be tested, because at any time during the 'retention' period, official inspectors can come and check that you are indeed keeping the cows.  Seems straightforward enough.  At the end of the retention period, the subsidy should be payable and no more paperwork and staff and farmer time necessary.  Most claimants will be honest - and any cheats risk being caught by an inspection and then penalised.  Simple and cheap to operate efficiently.
 
Instead, DEFRA has dived into a morass of cross references and bureaucracy.  Fine for administrative job-creation but otherwise an inefficient and costly waste of time.  Another set of costs to blame on the productive British Farmer.
 
Months after I had made my claim, I rang the RPA to check on progress.  I was told that the RPA checks the claim against the records of my six cows held at the BCMS.  This had thrown up about five anomalies!  Most could be disregarded but one of my four year old cows, was recorded by BCMS as a heifer - not a cow...  It was an animal that I had brought-in as a replacement, so I consulted my neighbour, from whom I had obtained her as a 'cow'.  He confirmed that she had calved and gave me the number of the calf.  I phoned the BCMS.  They confirmed that their records did not show that the cow had ever produced a calf.  I asked about the calf, giving its number.  The calf was indeed recorded but the number of the dam had been entered without the prefix 'UK' [UK cattle identification numbers consist of the producer's herd number and a number for the individual animal -about twelve digits in all - and the whole sequence of numbers is prefixed by the letters 'UK'].  Because the 'UK' had been omitted, the connection between cow and calf hadn't been made.  They would correct this.
 
Next, on the 16th September, I received a letter from the RPA telling me that "The RPA is required by the EU Commission to check that the information about bovine animals subject to subsidy claims matches that on the BCMS cattle tracing system (CTS)"  Their checks had thrown up an anomaly: "Scanned Movement Card received at BCMS with no "On" or "Off" movement ticked for the movement" of the cow.  The copy of the record printed out and included, showed only the record of the cow's birth on my neighbour's farm and a record of it moving off my farm after the end of the retention period.  Surprisingly the RPA conclusion was that this "clearly shows that the animal was not moved off one holding and onto the other".  How on earth they thought the animal had managed to move off a different farm from the one on which she had been born, without moving baffled me.  Fortunately I had kept a photocopy of the movement card I had posted to BCMS when the cow arrived.  I checked and confirmed that it had been correctly filled out with a clear and bold tick in the 'on' box.  I pointed this out to the BCMS who said that the scan of the card must have missed the tick.  They would correct the record and inform the RPA.  I then asked what had become of the movement card that my neighbour would have sent when the cow moved.  They apparently had received that too - but the date of the movement had not been scanned - so they had not entered that either.  I checked with my neighbour, who had also kept a copy of his card.  The date was entered clearly and very legibly.  I informed BCMS, who promised to correct the record.
 
I then rang the RPA, told them that the BCMS had promised to amend the records and inform them.  "Oh no they won't, was the reply: they will alter the record and we can read it."  The record hadn't been corrected yet.  I promised to write to them.  I haven't heard from them yet but the outstanding part of the subsidy has been paid.
 
I expect all the staff time and to-ing and fro-ing will have cost more than the value of the subsidy.
 
My application to join the Beef Assurance Scheme threw up the requirement that all my cattle should be adorned with two eartags.  The oldest three, being pedigree Devons, had survived so far with the Devon Cattle Breeders' Society tattoos, and no eartags.  Tagging them [apart from being fairly hazardous - you try persuading a bull weighing about a ton to allow you to drive sharp objects through not one but two ears!]  required a new-style number.  After consultation with the BCMS the numbers were allocated - and BCSM promised to send new-style passports to go with the new numbers.  I tagged the animals and lived to tell the tale - just...  The passports arrived a few days ago.  The dates of birth of the cattle were correct - but they were all listed as 'Dexters' [nearly 'Devon' I suppose] and the bull was 'female'.  I await the corrected versions.
 
I don't want to be too 'clever' about these mistakes.  I make my own mistakes too.  But the consequences of the mistakes are so far reaching, and the systems require so many disparate actions to be completed correctly, received correctly and entered in the correct register - and so on - that the likelihood of a mistake occurring is unacceptably high.
 
And if you would like an even more ridiculous set of procedures - just cast an eye over the Country Stewardship Scheme!!!  I daren't even start to explain.
 
It seems to me that all these systems are designed - not to achieve their ostensible object - efficient and good quality food production and the creation of a pleasant and sustainable environment - but to maximise the opportunities for bureaucratic elaboration and control.  Nobody in charge seems to understand or attempt to understand how to simplify and make the system effective.  The commonsense basic purposes have been forgotten and it all seems to be run and constructed by and for the benefit of non productive administrators.  The EU is probably less to blame for these iniquities than our own Civil Service - I am sure that if the intention were there the administrative way could be found - but under current management, the EU certainly provides plenty of scope for generating more nonsense and more and more excuses.
 
Lawrence.