Scotland and Northern Ireland are about to begin making 2006 single farm payments – a development that will further inflame the situation in England, where £10m of 2005 payments is yet to reach farmers.

In England, complaints against the Rural Payments Agency are growing. FWi has been contacted by producers who say they have reached the end of their tether with the RPA.

Writing on FWi’s forums, a farmer calling himself Romper Stomper said: “Apparently, I am a priority claimant – the RPA admitted they made an error in my form in July over the phone. But they will never write a letter or send an email. It is like mashing your head against a brick wall.”

Phone calls

Another contributor, called Skint, added: “We have made numerous phone calls to RPA to ask where payment is and no one can give us any info. Surely their computer system can tell us?”

An RPA spokesman said specialist teams were working to clear all 2005 business, but it was difficult to say when it would all be completed.

Asked about rumours that the RPA is going to contact all claimants still waiting for some money, he said this had been discussed, but no decision taken yet.

Derrick Wilkinson, senior economist for the Country Land and Business Association, said it was pathetic that the process was dragging on so long, but he feared it would carry on into spring.

That contrasts sharply with the situation in Scotland, where NFU Scotland has welcomed a commitment from the Scottish Executive to pay £290m in farm support payments before the end of 2006.

Full payment 

The executive’s aim is for 70% of farmers (more than 14,000 producers) to have received their full payment before the end of the year and 90% before the end of January 2007. The official payment window runs from 1 December 2006 to 30 June 2007.

In Northern Ireland, three-quarters of farmers should have received their SFP – worth about £140m – by the end of December, the department of agriculture confirmed this week.

Agriculture minister David Cairns said 40% of the money would go out in the first week, with 65% paid by 15 December and 75% by the end of the month.

But the Ulster Farmers’ Union is concerned some payments may not be made until next March because of hold-ups in cross-compliance inspections.

Wales is expected to announce its payment timetable next week.