Farm flood relief but thousands made to wait for EU cash

Claire Saunders, director of The Prince's Countryside Fund which is making �40,000 available to help rural communities, farmers and businesses cope with the aftermath of Storm Desmond.
Claire Saunders, director of The Prince's Countryside Fund which is making �40,000 available to help rural communities, farmers and businesses cope with the aftermath of Storm Desmond.
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AS MANY as 15,000 farmers are not expected to receive European support payments until February and have now been contacted by the Rural Payments Agency.

After a nervous wait for farmers to discover the fall out of an online-only applications process riddled with IT failures earlier in the year, the Agency has revealed that the most complicated claims are likely to be paid out more than two months after the payment window opened.

A spokesman for the Agency said: “The RPA has done its very best to ensure that any farmers in the segmented groups identified, who are unlikely to receive a payment before the end of January 2016, are informed so that they can manage cash flow.

“However, some of the farmers who receive a letter may be paid before the end of January. We are trying to show good customer service and alerting farmers early, but we are doing everything we can to pay them as soon as we can.”

Payments made under the Basic Payment Scheme started reaching farmers last week and the RPA has vowed that the “vast majority” of claims will be settled by the end of January.

Meanwhile, the National Farmers’ Union has written to RPA directors to ask for flood-hit farmers who are still waiting for EU payments to be given a partial settlement now to ease their financial problems.

Following the destruction left from Storm Desmond in the North West, NFU leaders are also asking for all agricultural inspections in the North to be postponed and for a temporary relaxation of rules on livestock movements and TB testing in the areas worst affected so that the clean-up can begin unhindered.

Additional financial support for those affected by the floods is being offered by The Prince’s Countryside Fund.

Claire Saunders, the Fund’s director, announced that farm charities and the Cumbria Community Foundation would share £40,000 to provide both immediate and longer-term financial support to rural communities, farmers and businesses.

Ms Saunders said livestock had drowned, farms had been damaged by landslips and feed and equipment had been lost, adding: “This is a catastrophic blow to rural businesses which are already hard pressed. Many will be relying on Christmas trade to turn a profit and we need to act swiftly to help them get back on track.”