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Farm leaders are demanding action from government agencies to ensure any outstanding basic payments for 2015 are made as soon as possible.

In England, the NFU is concerned that the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has seriously underestimated the number of farm businesses that have been underpaid.

The RPA said in late June it was initially working on 13,000 individual 2015 BPS claims where differences between land entitlements held and payments had been identified.

See also: Farmer Focus – Welsh border farms bottom of RPA pile

However, the NFU believes there could be “hundreds, if not thousands” of claimants in addition to the 13,000 who have been paid the incorrect BPS 2015 amount.

NFU vice-president and Essex farmer Guy Smith is among the thousands of farmers who have been sent a letter by the RPA explaining they have been paid incorrectly.

Mr Smith said: “We think there may be hundreds, if not thousands, of farmers out there who the system did not recognise as being ‘inaccurately underpaid’.

“We are worried about the claims that are going to be far more difficult to clear up, especially the more complex cases, such as cross-border ones.

“We are concerned that the RPA are underestimating the enormity of the work.”

Mr Smith believes between 10,000 and 20,000 BPS claims – in addition to the 13,000 already identified by the agency – could be incorrectly paid.

He called on Defra to offer more resources to ensure any outstanding payments are delivered as quickly as possible.

BPS 2016 concerns

The NFU is also concerned that the continuing issues with BPS 2015 will have a knock-on effect on the RPA’s ability to deliver payment for 2016 in a timely manner.

“Mark Grimshaw [RPA chief executive] has publicly stated that the agency’s target is to pay 90% of 2016 claims in December,” added Mr Smith.

“If we get any wind that they are backtracking from these targets, we will be calling for bridging payments to help farm businesses that have been left short of money due to poor prices and late subsidy payments this year.”

Meanwhile, the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) in Wales has called on the RPA and Rural Payments Wales (RPW) to ensure the remaining 2015 cross-border claims are made without further delay.

TFA Cymru said it understood the complexity of payment claims and those involving young farmer entitlements were holding up payments.

“These businesses would normally have expected to have received payment in December or January at the latest,” said TFA Cymru chairman Dennis Mathieson.

“These delays are having a crippling effect on cashflow.”

RPA payments pledge

An RPA spokesman refused to comment on the NFU figures and insisted there were no problems with its CAP IT payments system.

He added: “The Rural Payments Agency is on track with its reconciliation of 2015 Basic Payment Scheme payment queries. Nearly 3,000 claims are already completed worth more than £5m to farmers.

“Revised claim statements will be issued for all top-up payments made as a result of the planned reconciliation.

“In addition, the RPA is continuing to process more than 86,500 2016 BPS claims, with a record 80% submitted online. The agency is committed to paying 90% of farmers their 2016 BPS claim by the end of December.”