Unpaid farm payments dating back up to four years will finally be honoured using Treasury funds, the Government has announced today.
Payments will be made in full next month to thousands of eligible farmers in agri-environment schemes who are still waiting to be paid.
Farmers and land managers have entered into Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship agreements under the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy and have carried out important work to protect the countryside as a result.
Farmland has been taken out of production for species-rich meadows, ponds built to support wildlife and trees planted, among other measures, but many farmers have waited years to be paid for doing what was asked of them.
A “significant” number of agreement holders have not received full payment for work they have undertaken, the Government said, with some annual revenue claims dating back to 2015.
Paul Caldwell, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), said: “Today we are announcing that outstanding revenue claims for agri-environment schemes will be paid in full.
“We are determined to build on the improvements that we have already put in place, keep up a regular cycle of timely payments, and restore confidence in these schemes which are so important for our environment.”
According to the National Farmers' Union, the announcement means that around 22,500 farmers will be paid £115m in July.
The union's deputy president Guy Smith said: “This news from the RPA will help provide much-needed relief for those farming businesses waiting on outstanding Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship payments.
“We have been calling for the Government to sort this out. At NFU Conference in February, Michael Gove admitted that the Countryside Stewardship scheme was “still in a mess” and that the Government must do better.
“The news comes as we had worked with one of our legal panel firms, Thrings, through our Legal Assistance Scheme to assist individual farmer members in pursuing their debt claims against the RPA. Hopefully this service will no longer be necessary.
“However, we will continue to monitor the situation to make sure these overdue payments are made in full and at last hit farm bank accounts.”
The RPA said it will be writing to all unpaid customers this week to provide an update on payments.
Once individual claims have been processed, the RPA will write again to customers to confirm any adjustments to be made to the final payment.