The NFU has told MPs that it regards the single farm payment debacle as a “tragedy” and said the latest figures and the decision to sanction partial payments speak for themselves.

The NFU and Tenant Farmers Association appeared before the environment, food and rural affairs select committee in Monday afternoon (24 April).

The two organisations highlighted that problems with implementing the Single Payment Scheme stemmed from the decision, in early 2004, to go for a dynamic hybrid model of payments.

They pointed out that until autumn 2005 everyone believed the government was going to implement a historic payment system.

George Dunn, TFA chief executive, claimed there had even been great “mirth” at an RPA stakeholder meeting when the dynamic hybrid model was first discussed.

He said that he remembered a senior RPA official telling the group that it would be a “nightmare” for the agency if anything other than a simple historic or simple regional payment model was chosen.

The NFU’s written evidence to the committee said that signs of slippage in the RPA deadline began to appear in early 2005, with the announcement by DEFRA that payments were unlikely to start until February 2006, as opposed to at the beginning of the payment window in December 2005.

The union had a series of meetings with former RPA chief executive Johnston McNeill and his colleagues and Mr McNeill addressed NFU Council twice, it said.

“On all occasion, the overwhelming impression we were given was that our concerns that payment targets would not be met were unfounded and the RPA would deliver.”

Single Farm Payment Scheme special report from FWi