Agency’s farm payments target ‘is unacceptably bad’

Bridging payments should be made to farmers left to wait for their Basic Payment Scheme claims to be paid in the next subsidy round, said Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers' Union.
Bridging payments should be made to farmers left to wait for their Basic Payment Scheme claims to be paid in the next subsidy round, said Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers' Union.
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The Rural Payments Agency’s target to pay 93 per cent of this year’s direct subsidy claims to farmers by the end of March has been described as “unacceptably bad service”.

According to an update published online by the agency, “success” will be if 90 per cent of claimants receive their Basic Payment Scheme payment in December, the first month of the new payment window.

But success was also measured as just three per cent more claims being settled over the course of the following three months.

Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union, is not impressed and has called for “bridging payments” to be made early to those farmers who will be left waiting for their full payment.

He said: “I note to my horror that this document (the RPA update) also says that only 93 per cent will be paid by March 31. That, in my book, is unacceptably bad service for thousands of claimants and we will be looking for an early bridging payment for those people.”

An RPA spokesperson said: “Typically claims with a greater degree of processing complexity are likely to take longer to process and pay, as they did under the Single Payment Scheme. We are required by the EU to carry out certain checks before we can make payments.

“Our focus remains on paying 90 per cent of farmers their full claim payment by the end of December.

“We will aim to pay as many farmers as quickly as possible beyond that.”

Some BPS claims from the last payment round still need to be fully paid and, speaking at NFU Council, Mr Smith said the RPA had told the NFU that correction of full payments was nearing completion.

He added: “We continue to seek interest on payments issued after 30 June. Equally, our concerns remain around sorting out claims with common land, that includes Minchinhampton Case adjustments.

The NFU would hold the RPA to account over its payment promises, he said, adding that it was important that more complicated claims involving common land and cross border and inspection cases are not left until simpler applications have been processed, and that they too should be paid from December 1.