2 June 1931

Backlog means delay on 2001 subsidy claims

By Isabel Davies

FINAL payments relating to 2001 livestock subsidy claims will be delayed for several weeks because officials are struggling to complete all the required crosschecks, the Rural Payments Agency has admitted.

The agency has said that some farmers may have to wait until the end of July for the remaining 20% of 2001 Suckler Cow Premium and Beef Special Premium as well as Slaughter Premium and Extensification payments.

The deadline for paying balancing payments on bovine subsidy schemes should be Jun 30. Final payments will be about £22 for suckler cows and bulls and £16 for steers.

The admission will prove a particular embarrassment for the agency, as advance payments of SCP were late because of computer software problems.

More recently, strikes by DEFRA staff also led to delays in IACS cheques going out to farmers.

The new delay has been blamed on the fact that all bovine subsidy claims have to be checked against the central database of animals held by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS).

In particular, checks are being made that all animals are registered to the correct location for the duration of the retention period.

But this has thrown up a significant amount of anomalies, especially where herds involve older cattle, which are taking time to sort out, said the agency.

Johnston McNeill, chief executive of the RPA, said he was deeply concerned by the position.

"I know that the news will be of great concern to producers who are waiting for their payments and that it comes at a particularly bad time. But I can assure them that we are doing everything possible to ensure that payments are made as soon as possible."

Every effort would be made to ensure that farmers with straightforward claims would receive their payments by June 30, he added.

Simon Lunnis, NFU head of commodities, said the issue had been raised by NFU president, Ben Gill, during a meeting with junior DEFRA minister Lord Whitty on Tuesday (May 28).

"We accept that the problem is genuine, but the underlying reality is that balancing payments will not be paid by June 30 and farmers will suffer as a result," he said. "It is hugely frustrating for the farmers concerned."

The union believed that farmers who have payments held up through no fault of their own should be paid interest, he added. &#42