Agency makes payments to 91% of farmers

Michael Gove said he was 'not satisfied' by the performance of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) even though it reached its target to pay direct support payments to at least 90 percent of farmers by the end of the opening month of the new payment window.

More than £1.45bn has been paid out in farm support payments since the Basic Payment Scheme payment window opened at the start of December 2017.

The RPA, much-maligned for its legacy of failure to pay lifeblood subsidies to farmers timely and accurately, has revealed that it paid more than 91 percent of farmers their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) monies last month.

But the Environment Secretary said a new chairman would be brought in help the agency strive for better.

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More than 76,500 farmers in England received their entitlements in December, worth just over £1.45bn in total, and Mr Gove said: “I am encouraged so far... Encouraged but not satisfied. Which is why I am looking for a new chair of the RPA to work with the chief executive and his team to drive further improvement.”

Guy Smith, vice president of the National Farmers’ Union , said he wanted unpaid farmers to receive bridging payments to protect their businesses while they await a full settlement, saying: “The vast majority of those still waiting are doing so through no fault of their own. It is the RPA’s process that is causing the delay.”

RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell said: “We know there are still farmers waiting for payments and will make them as soon as we can. This month we will communicate directly with those farmers who are still to be paid to help them plan.”