Almost 9000 farmers in England are still waiting for their 2007 single farm payments, five months after the official payment window opened. But the rate of payment has slowed to about 40 claims a day and the Rural Payments Agency is now likely to miss its target to pay out 90% of the money by the end of May.

One farmer to fall foul of the process is Chris Woods, who keeps 130 milking cows, 220 mule ewes and store cattle on 400 tenanted acres to the south of Penrith, Cumbria.

“Our 2005 and 2006 payments were made with out problem,” he told Farmers Weekly. “But four months ago we were told there were two minor problems with the 2007 claim and we’ve not had a penny.

“The RPA won’t tell us what the problems are. All they tell us is that they have until the end of June to pay us.”

Mr Woods says he is owed “a substantial amount” and there are many farmers in the same situation. “Our costs are going up and this is hurting our business.”

The NFU says it too has received numerous complaints of late payment. “Payments have slowed down dramatically over the last month as the RPA’s failure to finalise corrections of 2005 and 2006 claims blocks the rapid processing of 2007 payments,” said a spokesman.

Latest figures from the RPA show that 97,809 customers had received their full SPS payment by last Tuesday (6 May), just 1488 more than at the end of March,

In total it has paid out £1.25bn, or 86.5% of the total fund for 2007. This is just 3% more than at the end of March. At this rate, the RPA seems set to miss its 90% target by the end of May.

Indeed, the press release issued this week for the first time drops any reference to that target. Instead, it offers a possible explanation for the slow-down.

“During validation checks, entitlements relating to a claim may need to be corrected in light of any changes or new information. These changes, which could have resulted in under- and over-payments in previous scheme years, are being addressed and, wherever possible, corrected this year, to avoid carry over into future scheme years.”

It says it is processing outstanding claims as quickly as possible.

* For our special report on the 2008 Single Payment Scheme click here

* To join our forum debate on the 2007 delays, click here