Half-payments lifeline for farms still without vital support money

Hard-pressed farmers still awaiting their lifeblood European support money are set to receive one-off 'bridging payments' worth around half the value of their individual claims, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has announced.

Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency.

After months of resistance to making part-payments to the thousands of farmers who have been made to wait for their settlements, the government agency has now revealed that the last ten per cent of farmers to be paid will receive half their settlement money by the end of April.

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Mark Grimshaw, the RPA’s chief executive, made the surprise announcement at a National Farmers’ Union council meeting this afternoon.

In a statement released afterwards, Mr Grimshaw said: “We know how important these payments are for farmers and our priority has always been to get the majority of farmers’ payments as quickly as possible.

“We are now processing the last 10 per cent of complex claims and recognise this is taking longer than we anticipated. With the bulk of farmers paid, we are now introducing bridging payments to ease financial cash flow for those farmers still awaiting full payment.

“We hope this step offers some help while we continue working seven days a week to complete our processing of remaining 2015 claims.”

Before now the RPA has maintained that making any part-payments to farmers was not an option as it wanted to concentrate on paying as many claims in full as soon as possible, but with the majority now paid and with applications now being taken for the 2016 Basic Payment Scheme, the agency has changed tactics.

The RPA’s statement added: “Thanks to a focus on prioritising full payments, around 90 per cent of applicants have been paid.”

Farmers’ payments have faced delays after IT failures at the RPA disrupted last year’s applications process.