December date for dairy support payments

ONE-OFF support payments to alleviate cash-flow problems for dairy farmers will be made in December, the Government has confirmed.

Dairy cattle. (S)

The scheduling of payments, announced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today, means those farmers in line to benefit will receive the support around the same time as when new EU subsidy payments are also set to be paid out.

The beginning of December also heralds the opening of the payment window for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). Like BPS, the dairy support payments will be administered by the Rural Payments Agency.

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The extent of an individual dairy farmer’s one-off support payment will be determined according to how much milk they produce. Defra said the average payment will be around £1,800 per English dairy farmer.

The support package, which amounts to £15.5 million for English farmers, is part of a much larger aid package being shared between dairy colleagues across EU member states after an accord was struck between European agriculture ministers in Brussels last month.

It comes as a result of the extreme volatility which has hit the dairy sector over the last 18 months. An oversupply of milk on the global market has seen farm gate prices tumble below production costs.

Farming Minister George Eustice said: “We recognise that many dairy farmers in the UK are suffering financially at the moment and the support will offer some relief.

“Dairy farmers are a vital part of our £100 billion food and farming industry and I’m pleased to confirm that ministers across the Union have agreed to distribute the aid in the simplest way – linked to milk production - to ensure the RPA can get this money into farmers’ bank accounts promptly.”

Ministers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales had flexibility about how to allocate their share of the UK’s £26.2 million overall direct aid package but all have opted to pay in line with England.

The UK’s overall direct support package is the third largest of all the member states.

Northern Ireland was given a boosted allocation – worth £5.1m – in recognition that Northern Irish farmers have been suffering from some of the lowest prices across Europe.

In Northern Ireland farmers will be allocated, on average, just short of £2,000. In Scotland, because they have larger dairy units on average, it will be just over £2,500, Mr Eustice said.

Meanwhile, Defra insisted that work was continuing on “a host of measures to improve the long-term stability of the dairy industry”.

Mr Eustice is due to attend the world’s largest food and drink fair, Anuga, in Cologne, this week to promote British food and farming exports.

Next month, Environment Secretary Liz Truss will lead a trade delegation – including eight British dairy businesses - to China to promote British produce.