The Rural Payments Agency has sent a 2005 SFP cheque for a single penny to a north Devon farmer, raising questions as to whether the agency is using both time and resources efficiently.

John Day, who farms 110ha near Barnstaple, Devon, received modulation remittance advice amounting to £0.01. The cheque, which cost 38p in bank charges to deposit, came out of the blue.

His 2005 SFP payment, which came to nearly £22,000, was paid in May 2006. “I didn’t know we had anything else to come, as we had already received one lot of modulation for 2005.

“Some farmers haven’t even received their full payments yet, and the RPA is messing around with things like this. Surely there should be a cut off point when it is deemed uneconomical to send a cheque,” he said.

An RPA spokesman said it would be “too expensive” to amend the system. “It is unusual that cheques go out for this little. We have looked at the cost of changing the system and, because it happens so rarely, it is more cost-effective to leave it as it is.”

But Mr Day doesn’t think it’s cost-effective. “I have a good mind to bill them for the cost of depositing the cheque. The administration must have cost £20-30. I would be surprised if more farmers weren’t receiving top-ups of this kind.”

RPA ragout

The RPA’s remittance advice to Devon farmer John Day.

Mr Day’s MP, Liberal Democrat Nick Harvey, said: “It beggars belief the RPA would waste public money, time and effort to issue farmers with remittance advice for 1p, but this is what it has done.”