England’s farmers will start receiving full single farm payments in late February and the bulk should be complete in March, junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach has confirmed.

“I am very pleased to confirm what we said more than a year ago – that full payments will begin in February,” he said.

“I hope this announcement will provide some reassurance to the farming industry.

“Staff at the Rural Payments Agency have worked extremely hard to make this possible and I am most grateful to them. I also want to acknowledge the co-operation and patience of everyone who has made a claim.

“The start of these payments signals a milestone in the development of a modern farming industry in this country, one which is no longer driven by subsidies. This new single payment scheme, a key part of the 2003 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy, rolls 11 old schemes into one.

“It encourages farmers to be more innovative in responding to consumer demand while setting new standards of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.”

The RPA will now press ahead to definitively establish entitlements on 14 February. Farmers will be informed of their individual details within two weeks of that date.

Johnston McNeill, chief executive of the RPA, said: “Our staff have shown dedication and a lot of hard work in recent months to deliver these payments and it is a great credit to them.

“Making full payments from February will also deliver major benefits for the future. Claimants will be able to trade their definitively-established entitlements and their SPS forms for 2006 will be pre-printed with their key data so that the next application will be simpler to complete.”