The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has agreed to make bridging payments to the 10% of farmers yet to receive their 2015 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) monies. It says the move recognises the cash flow pressures eligible claimants are facing.
RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw made the announcement to this week’s NFU Council meeting, following sustained industry criticism over the agency’s record in missing its own targets for issuing the payments. Mr Grimshaw conceded that the final cases were proving more difficult to process than anticipated, due to complications caused by a new inspection regime and changes to how commons applications are processed.
The bridging payments, worth around half of a claim’s value, will be made by the end of April. It is understood this will be met by a direct loan from the treasury, rather than from BPS funds which have to be claimed back from Europe.
“We are now processing the last 10% of complex claims and recognise this is taking longer than we anticipated,” says Mr Grimshaw. “With the bulk of farmers paid, we are now introducing bridging payments to ease financial cash flow for those farmers still awaiting full payment. With around 10% of farmers left to pay, it is now possible to administer bridging payments in a rigorous and swift fashion
“The 2015 BPS scheme required RPA to carry out more, and different, inspections because of the new greening requirements. This included new items for inspection such as Ecological Focus Areas.
“We know how important these payments are for farmers and our priority has always been to get the majority of farmers' payments made as quickly as possible. We hope this step offers some help while we continue working seven days a week to complete our processing of remaining 2015 claims.”
Turning to the 2016 scheme, Mr Grimshaw said over 14,400 online applications have now been made and 2,300 paper applications received. He urged farmers and their advisers to ensure all BPS 2016 claims are submitted by the May 16 deadline.