Progress is being made towards resolving problems at the Rural Payments Agency, farm minister Jim Paice has said.
Mr Paice said speeding up subsidy payments and ensuring their accuracy had proved to be the biggest challenge of his first year in office.
But genuine progress had been made and work would continue to improve the agency’s performance, he told Farmers Weekly.
“I can understand farmers’ frustration, but we are doing our best to sort it out against a horrendous background,” said Mr Paice. “The RPA is making significant progress.
“There is no doubt that in the past the desire to get payments out has been at the expense of accuracy and we have been determined this year that accuracy must be a priority.”
This accounted for the fact that some people were having to wait longer than others for their payments, Mr Paice said.
“I feel very sad about that and I am very much aware that some farmers have faced serious financial problems because of it.
“But I can honestly say that I think we are cracking the problems and I think that making next year’s payments will be a much smoother process.”
Mr Paice said progress was being made on other pledges he had made in opposition, with significant policy announcements in the pipeline, including a long-awaited decision on a badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis in cattle.
An announcement that will cover measures to reduce red tape in agriculture is expected within the next few weeks.
Pledges had already been honoured regarding the abolition of the agricultural wages board, improving animal health and better food labelling, said Mr Paice.
“Nothing has failed to the best of my knowledge,” he said. “Most of them are either in the bag or much closer to reality.”
Mr Paice was appointed farm minister on 13 May 2010. An in-depth article analysing his first year in office will be published in Farmers Weekly on Friday, 6 May.