The NFU says that the Basic Payment Scheme subsidy payments under the CAP are in danger of falling behind schedule, and are worse that the official Rural Payments Agency position. Payments are critical to maintain many farm cashflows – the Union is calling for part payments to be issued where the full claim cannot be met.
The Union says that less than 25% of farmers have received a payment to date, despite an encouraging start with just over 36,000 payments made in the first eight days of the payment window starting on December 1st. Meanwhile, the RPA says that 41% of payments have been issued.
The survey “throws into doubt the RPA’s ability to reach its own target of 50% of payments made in December”, adds the Union, calling on Defra and the RPA for greater transparency in reporting on payment progress. This must reference to both the number of farmers paid and the total value of those claims.
NFU President Meurig Raymond says: “We know there were 15,000 letters sent to farmers in early December to say it’s unlikely they will receive a payment by the end of January. However, many are now in a situation where they are without a payment or a letter stating their payment will be delayed – these are the farmers that we are particularly concerned about.
“If the RPA cannot make the vast majority of payments by the end of January, as promised, then they must tell the farmers who are expecting payment. In our view, the vast majority must be at least 85-90% of claims in volume and value. No one can plan on false hope and uncertainty.
“Many farmers have monthly commitments that they will not be able to meet without these payments,” Mr Raymond continues. “In our view, Defra and the RPA now need to plan for partial payments to be issued to anyone not paid by early February as no business can operate effectively with such uncertainty at this time. It is also important to remember that no payments punish not only farm businesses but the rest of the rural economy too.
The NFU is concerned the current delays will also impact upon the 2016 claim period, with a mid-May application deadline (the 2015 deadline was extended after the failure of the RPA’s online submission only approach). This could be exacerbated by the 30% DEFRA budget cuts imposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
“To ensure this year’s delayed payments do not impact on BPS 2016, we need Defra and the RPA to, at the very least, be able to maintain the current level of resources until the 2016 applications are safely logged,” says NFU vice president Guy Smith. “There is no margin for error at present with the RPA already working seven days a week, but ring fencing resource going forward can help manage the RPA’s destiny.”