Farmer satisfaction with the Rural Payments Agency appears to be slipping to a new low.

An on-line poll by Farmers Weekly interactive asked whether readers felt the RPA was “getting better”, “getting worse” or “staying the same”.

Of the 1230 who had responded by Wednesday evening (14 May), some 737 (60%) said it was getting worse, compared with 324 (26%) who felt it was staying the same and just 169 (14%) who thought it was getting better.

Undoubtedly, one of the main reasons for the falling satisfaction has been the recent slowdown in the number of 2007 single farm payments being processed, with around 9000 farmers waiting for payment.

One Northumberland sheep and beef farmer, who contacted Farmers Weekly and asked not to be named, said he was waiting for £113,000 from the RPA for this year’s payment, as well as £10,000 in interest from a late payment in 2005.

“I contacted my office four weeks ago and it was put through for urgent payment. I have not heard anything since,” he said. “We need the money – I pay rent on 1650 acres which has to be paid soon, and I usually buy my fertiliser for the year forward. The situation is affecting my health.”

But the RPA insists it is working hard to pay claims as quickly as possible, adding that it has made 19,329 more full payments compared to this time last year. 

“Over the past year RPA has made investment in core business activities with the aim of delivering services more effectively and efficiently,” said a spokeswoman. “This has included significant IT improvements allowing each SPS claimant to have a single point of contact with the Agency as we move to whole case working.”

 * Farmers appear to have left it to the last minute to get their 2008 SPS forms back to the RPA. As of Tuesday – just two days before the 15 May cut-off date for penalty-free claims – some 73,000 forms had been submitted out of an expected 106,662.

* SFP – are you still waiting? Click here to join the debate