Union piles on pressure over farm payments

Farmers should receive bridging payments earlier than before if they are made to wait into the new year for direct support payments, the NFU said.
Farmers should receive bridging payments earlier than before if they are made to wait into the new year for direct support payments, the NFU said.
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The National Farmers’ Union has vowed that it will not stop putting pressure on the Rural Payments Agency until all issues with new and old farm support payment claims have been resolved.

New figures show the agency has paid more than 63 per cent of farmers since the new payment window for direct European subsidies opened at the start of the month.

The RPA said the funds distributed so far are worth £850m but the NFU claims that the total only consists of half of all money due to farmers and that it wants more than 90 percent of both farmers paid and the total funds distributed by the end of the month.

Those who miss out on the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments this month, should be given “bridging payments” to tide them over into the new year and not months down the line in April as was the case this year, the NFU said.

Richard Wordsworth, the NFU’s senior BPS adviser, told The Yorkshire Post: “At the start of the payment window, there will always be claims sitting there ready to be paid when the window legally opens, but it is encouraging to see the numbers coming through.

“A good chunk of payments have now been paid but we are expecting to see the RPA get to at least 90 or 91 percent paid by the end of December and so the trajectory of direction between now and then is important.

“Those people who have been paid early have certainty and can work with that payment to run cash flow through their businesses. Our concern focuses on those who have yet to be paid. That uncertainty on them personally and on their businesses and cash flow is critical to us.

“We will judge the RPA at the end of the month but we want to see improvements to not just the total amount of payments but to the RPA’s approach, so that those who aren’t going to be paid in December fall into better communication with the RPA before they get to that point and if they are going to be delayed, that advanced bridging payment needs to be on the table and used earlier than before. We won’t rest until the last payment has been made.”

Scarborough-based farmer Will Terry is waiting to receive his payment, not just for 2017, but for long-overdue corrections to both his 2016 and 2015 payments.

“The RPA’s priority has been to get the payments out for 2017 but they still haven’t done all the correction work for the last two years. The entitlements for the farm have basically been lost until they are corrected and I’m certainly not the only one in North Yorkshire who is in this position.”

Speaking at the Northern Farming Conference last month, RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell said the agency was now working through “legacy” issues.

After the agency posted its performance for the start of the 2017 payment window, Mr Caldwell said: “We are making strong progress against last year’s performance and remain focused on getting remaining payments out as quickly as possible.”

FRAUD WARNING

Farmers are being urged to be vigilant against fraud as substantial sums are paid out during the Basic Payment Scheme payment window.

The Government is reminding farmers that the Rural Payments Agency, banks and the police will never ask for individuals’ online passwords, PIN or bank account details or ask for a payment to be made over the telephone.

Anyone who suspects they are the target of fraudsters are advised to contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 immediately for advice and to register any concerns.

For payment queries, the Rural Payments Agency runs a helpline on 03000 200 301.