The NFU has also highlighted that DEFRA is giving serious consideration to extending the window for 2006 Single Payment Scheme applications until 9 June by waiving the late application penalties which normally apply after 15 May.

In a detailed update statement, published on its website, www.nfuonline.com, the union said the Rural Payments Agency had managed to speed up payments in the past seven days.

At close of play on 28 Mar, 27,862 claimants had been paid a total of £206m.

But the NFU said this was really because the RPA had cleared a backlog in getting validated claims through to payment.

“The real issue is the validation stage. As things stand, claims cannot be passed for payment until they are fully validated.

“Ministers and the RPA will not make any forecasts about how much will be paid out and when. It is clear that until hold-ups in the main validation stage are sorted out, progress will remain painfully slow.”

In order to speed things up the government has:

  • Removed four out of six “disproportionate” checks from the payment authorisation system
  • Increased the area discrepancy tolerance in the validation process to 2ha or 3%
  • Stopped over-pedantic quality checks so staff can concentrate on processing claims
  • Where mapping correspondence is still outstanding, making payments on the latest information held
  • Moving to a customer rather than a task-based approach – so a single person will deal with each claim

But the NFU said it was frustrated by the extension to the transfer deadline, in that it should have been announced weeks ago.

“Most farmers will already have gone through the stress of trying to get in forms, make arrangements with others parties and agree terms. It is simply bad government to extend at this late stage.”

To avoid a similar situation, it said DEFRA must act quickly to announce any extension to the 2006 SPS application window.

It is also pushing hard for a mechanism to be put in place to allow part-payments to be made.

“We understand the government’s preference for full payments and that part payments will take a significant amount of time to get through the system. But we need to know what that time lag is.”

Finally, the NFU has said it is seeking Counsel’s opinion on possible causes of action open to members who maps have not been finalised by the RPA.

The union has also highlighted that anyone can make a formal compliant with the Commission against a Member State which fails to implement Community Law and the NFU legal team will assist members who want to make a complaint.

To read to update in full visit www.nfuonline.com