The NFU has warned the Rural Payments Agency must urgently resolve any outstanding issues with 2015 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims if it is to successfully meet its target of paying 90% of farmers’ 2016 payments in December.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith said there were doubts that the agency could meet that promise, but the union was determined to hold it to it.
“Travelling round the country talking to farmers and agents, it is staggering just how many feel that BPS 2015 is far from complete or resolved,” he said.
“Fifteen months on from when these claims were submitted and just three months away from the opening of the 2016 payment window, the atmosphere is best described as fraught.”
On Tuesday (6 September), the RPA issued an update on its payment reconciliation programme, which involves going through 13,000 2015 claims to determine whether farmers are due a top-up payment.
By 6 September, the agency had paid 8,400 farmers an additional £15.3m. However, this means there are another 4,600 claims still to be sorted.
The NFU is also warning there could be many more underpayments in the system yet to be picked up.
In a statement, the RPA said anyone who had a query with their 2015 payment, but had not heard from the agency, could still ask it to investigate.
It added: “The RPA has all the resources it needs to complete 2015 payment reconciliation and begin making 2016 payments from 1 December.”
Figures released by the Scottish Executive show there is work to be done in Scotland to resolve 2015 payment problems too.
By 31 August, some 17,330 claimants had received a full payment out of a total claimant population of 18,479.
A spokesman for NFU Scotland said there was still a “sizeable overhang” of 2015 payments issues waiting to be sorted.
“We are now in September and the problems are proving to have a very long tail – largely driven by difficulties with the IT system,” the spokesman said.
Some people were still waiting for balancing payments or new entrant/national reserve top-ups. Almost £10m worth of Less-Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) payments were also outstanding, despite them usually being paid in March, he added.
A Scottish government spokesperson said officials continued to work flat out to get CAP payments to farmers as fast as possible and to date had paid out a total of £357m in direct farm funding. “There remains a relatively small number of CAP claims that are taking longer to progress because they are complicated and eligibility is still being confirmed. The Cabinet secretary will provide a further update to the Scottish Parliament next week.”
Dylan Morgan, NFU Cymru head of policy, said some cross-border farmers had received letters suggesting they may have been overpaid on their English entitlements, but there were no other major issues outstanding in Wales.
“The big issue now is 2016 claims. We’re hoping we can see a return to the excellent payment record of previous years.”