Partial single farm payments may start in England by the end of May, Farmers Weekly believes.

Industry stakeholders were anticipating that they would be given a rough timetable for interim payments at a high-level meeting yesterday (Thursday, 4 May).

But speaking on Wednesday (3 May), an RPA spokesman indicated that it was “feasible” that payments would start by the end of this month.

“It is feasible, although until our testing cycle [of the system] is complete we are not in a position to say any more,” he said.

The agency added that testing of the newly-designed partial payment system was showing encouraging progress.

“When the partial payments system has proved robust and capable of delivering speedy and accurate payments totalling millions of pounds to thousands of customers, the go-ahead will be given to fully deploy partial payments.”

Getting interim payments out to the industry has become a priority, because full payments show little sign of picking up.

By close of play on 2 May, the agency had managed to pay just 56,291 claimants a total of £514m.

Although this is an increase of £81m on the previous week, over 63,000 producers are still waiting for their cheques.

DEFRA said it recognised that many people were facing cash-flow problems, which was why it was making an additional £100,000 available to key rural support organisations.

Junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach said:

“In order to help people who find these difficulties particularly stressful, we have substantially increased the amount of funding available to organisations dealing with hardship issues.

“However, at the end of the day, these problems will only be solved with payments being made, which is why the RPA is working flat out to develop a partial payments system.

This will deliver the greatest amount of money into the industry in the shortest possible time.”

Meanwhile, producers have been warned that the 15 May deadline for 2006 applications remains in place despite the ongoing problems.

The NFU’s chief legal adviser Julie Robinson said farm organisations were pushing for the late application penalties to be waived.

“But the message for now is to get on and do your forms and get them in by 15 May,” she said.

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk