The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is due to launch a redesigned online service for Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments this year.
The new service, which is understood to be costing the department £154 million, will be launched in private beta to 450 farmers in July before being made available as a public beta by the end of the year.
The department’s digital strategy, published in December 2012, promises that the CAP will be fundamentally redesigned end-to-end, ‘introducing a single IT solution with digital delivery as a core design principle’.
Defra officials have expressed confidence that the system will “ensure there is no repeat of the 2005 payments fiasco, ahead of a fundamental change in the way Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments are delivered.”
The Rural Payments Agency previously came under fire from the National Audit Office for its £350 million IT system for CAP payments, which was launched late and over budget and made incorrect payments to farmers. It is unclear how much, if any, of this existing system will be used to develop its replacement.
Farmers will ultimately be able to use the service to assess, apply and track their applications for funding under the new 2015 CAP programme. It will also allow farmers, foresters and agents to manage their land via an online mapping facility.
The department is responsible for distributing over £2 billion in subsidy payments to approximately 100,000 farmers every year. The new single service will replace 40 existing schemes used to deliver CAP by four delivery agencies including the Forestry Commission and the Rural Payments Agency.
The new service is one of 25 ‘digital exemplars’ being redesigned by departments, led by the Government Digital Service. The services represent the 25 highest volume transactions within the seven biggest Whitehall departments and are due to be rebuilt end-to-end by March 2015.