The NSA and NFU have asked DEFRA to examine the possibility of making early single farm payment (SFP) and hill farm allowance (HFA) payments to livestock farmers to alleviate some of the financial hardship brought about by the current movement ban.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, Peter Morris, NSA chief executive, said it was essential some cash found its way to the livestock sector and particularly hill farmers who normally be enjoying some of their highest earning days of the year at the moment. “These farms rely on a few sales a year to survive, they produce breeding animals for lowland units and being unable to sell these animals could leave many on the brink of poverty, particularly as these stock will now be eating grass and other forage which should be being eaten by other sheep and cattle.”

Mr Morris said DEFRA had noted the request, but it had not yet made any suggestions that advanced payments of either scheme would be made. “The earliest we could see any SFP payments would be 16 October as EU law prevents payment before then. However, it is not yet clear whether HFA payments are governed by the same rules, so it may be easier to make those payments.

“Hopefully, the rural payments agency will be represented at stakeholder meetings next week and it will become clearer just what is possible. What is clear though is that these farms will struggle to survive the financial hardship brought about by the movement ban.”

He added that he was hopeful discussions could be had next week to consider allowing breeding rams and bulls to move between farms where necessary to avoid disrupting normal breeding patterns.