£20 notes© XYZ PICTURES/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

About 5% of farmers and landowners in England are still waiting to receive their Basic Payment cash for 2017, Farmers Weekly understands.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has not released any further updates on how many Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments it processed in February.

The last official figures, released on 26 January, showed 79,000 eligible claimants – more than 93% ­– had received their payments. However, Farmers Weekly understands between 4,000 and 5,000 farmers remain unpaid.

See also: England and Scotland rethink 2018 BPS active farmer test

Bridging payment

Farm minister George Eustice said any farmer not paid by the end of March would receive a bridging payment equivalent to 75% of their claim.

Keith Warters, a chartered surveyor/auctioneer at North Yorkshire land agent Cundalls, handles claims for about 100 landowners.

He told Farmers Weekly that about 90% of his clients received their BPS cash by December, but six clients have still not been paid.

“It has stuck like that since Christmas,” said Mr Warters. “These claims appear to be no more difficult than the ones the RPA has already processed.

“They [clients] cannot understand the reason for the delay. It seems a shame the RPA cannot process the final few.”

Andrew Jenkinson, a partner and rural surveyor at Buckingham-based Robinson & Hall, said eight of his 100 clients, who farm 21,000ha in total, had not been paid. He said the claims range between £100,000 and £400,000 in value.

“We just haven’t had anything from the RPA in February at all,” said Mr Jenkinson, the 2017 Farmers Weekly Awards Farm Adviser of the Year. “It’s like they have moved on and not thought about it.”

Cashflow problems

Mr Warters said ongoing delays were causing cashflow problems for farmers who have fertiliser, feed and seed bills to pay.

Tony Rimmer, director of Chester-based land agent Rostons, said about 6% of his company’s 400 clients in Cheshire and North Wales were still awaiting payment.

“Their claims seem to be sat in a pile that is slowly being worked through, with ‘slow’ being the operative word,” he added.

He suspects farms that were inspected remotely are among those facing payment delays.

Mr Rimmer criticised the RPA for poor communication. “I sit on both stakeholder groups for England and Wales. The RPA are trying to raise their game on communication, but they have still got a long way to go.”

96% paid in Wales

The Welsh government announced this week that 96% of farmers in Wales had received their 2017 BPS money.

But George Chichester, a farming consultant for Strutt & Parker, based in Newbury, Hampshire, said the RPA appears to be faring better than last year. Only a couple of his 100 clients are without 2017 BPS money.

NFU deputy president Guy Smith said: “Noises in the NFU membership suggest that 95% of BPS payments made is about right. We fully understand the frustration of those not yet paid.”

The RPA was unavailable for comment on Friday (2 March).

2018 online BPS applications open in Northern Ireland

The Online Single Application service for 2018 is now open, the NI Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) has announced.

Daera will not be issuing paper versions of the Single Application this year. The deadline for receipt of all Single Applications and supporting evidence is 15 May 2018.

To register visit Daera.