THE RURAL Payments Agency is making “good progress” towards delivering European payments to farmers on time, with its staff working seven days a week following the abandonment of its online-only application process earlier in the year.
On the eve of a meeting between RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw and the vice president of the National Farmers’ Union, Guy Smith, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued a statement to say the Agency was on track to process Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments in time for the opening of the payment window next month.
The statement said: “With less than a month to go before BPS payments to farmers in England are due to start, good progress is being made by the RPA.
“A series of transfers and checks need to be made before payments can be made. The RPA has confirmed that it has completed land and entitlement transfer processing and will write to farmers and agents to confirm that their transfers have been made in the coming weeks.
“This means that the RPA remains on track to make full BPS payments as early as possible in the payment window with the majority before the end of December and the vast majority by the end of January 2016.”
But ahead of his meeting at RPA headquarters in Reading, the NFU’s Mr Smith said there were still far too many “unknowns” around the progress of BPS claims.
“While we appreciate the RPA is working seven days a week to process claims, we have concerns around the next phases of work on claims,” he said.
“The RPA is using a new IT system with a number of software releases still to be made and should now be in the middle of the post-data capture phases work – which is the validation and verification of claims. Added to this it also needs to tie in information received via the RLE1 forms for land changes. There is still a lot to do.”
Rosie Dunn, who farms near York, visited the RPA at the end of September in her position as NFU regional board chairman for the North East, and she added: “It’s hugely important to all sectors of our industry that payments come on time.”