Farming Minister defends response to IT failures

Farming Minister George Eustice.  Pic: NFU
Farming Minister George Eustice. Pic: NFU
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FARMING MINISTER George Eustice told MPs the Government’s “swift action” following the collapse of an online farm payments application process will ensure farmers are paid on time.

The Yorkshire Post reported on Saturday how the Government’s Rural Payments Agency was now seeking paper applications from farmers eligible for Basic Farm Payments after “performance problems” with a new £154 million computer system.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons this afternoon, Mr Eustice said the new computer system was not being abandoned long-term and that the core of the new system was working well, with over 80 per cent of farm businesses having registered successfully on it. The problems involve mapping land parcels online and the RPA had been working since February to fix them, he said.

Other EU countries had encountered similar issues, he said, adding: “Our priority has always been to ensure that farmers can submit their claims by the deadline. That’s why we have acted and made adjustments to our plans.”

He said applications for the EU payments from approximately 39,000 farm businesses with little changes to report to their land will be fast-tracked.

“I believe this is a pragmatic response,” the Conservative MP said. “It means we will be able to make payments to farmers when the payment window opens in December 2015.”