On October 15, this newspaper revealed probable delays to the upcoming subsidies because the RPA – an offshoot of the Defra – has not got its act together. Yesterday, The Yorkshire Post revealed that more than 10,000 farmers were underpaid by a total of £27.4m last year and 1,000 claims are still unresolved. Now the National Farmers’ Union fears the situation could be even worse because the RPA has not provided farmers with a full breakdown of their subsidy – and how it was calculated.
Given the fallibility of the organisation’s computers, and its well-documented difficulties implementing the most minor of changes to EU policy, a farm’s acreage, or the use of land, this does not inspire any confidence as the number of missed performance targets multiplies.
As this column made clear yesterday, there would be a national outcry if benefit recipients were treated so shabbily. Why not farmers? Guardians of the countryside, they are food producers. Without them, Britain will be even more dependent on exports at a time when existing, and new, trading relationships are at the mercy of Brexit. It’s time Ministers are held to account and sort out this chaos – Tory peer Anne McIntosh, the former Environment Select Committee chairman, is able and willing. Who will join her?