14 September 2001
Concern over delayed sheep cash

By FWi staff

SHEEP Annual Premium (SAPS) payments to many sheep farmers, who had ewes taken into the Livestock Welfare Disposal Scheme (LWDS) before 15 May this year, have been withheld.

The explanation given by their Defra offices is that the administrators are waiting for guidance on how to proceed.

But SAPS payments to other sheep producers started in July.

Philip Stiles, Cornwall NFU chairman, said: “The NFU understood that it was agreed force majeure would apply and sheep taken under the welfare scheme before the end of the retention period, would qualify for the SAPS payment providing it had been applied for and the appropriate quota was available.”

In April, farmers received a letter signed by Alan Taylor, head of governments Livestock Schemes Division.

It said force majeure rules could be expected to apply for SAPS (and Suckler Cow Premium and Beef Special Premium).

A Defra foot-and-mouth update, dated August 2001, states that the relevant EU law was changed to preserve the right to receive SAPS, SCP, BSP, and Extensification, for animals culled for foot-and-mouth control purposes, or for welfare reasons, provided legitimate claims were made and quota was available.

NFU HQs head of livestock, Kevin Pearce, said: “We have been aware of these problems and talking to Defra about them for the past two weeks or so.

“These farmers are understandably concerned after following Defras advice and having heard nothing in the meantime.

“Now they suddenly find there is a delay and no indication of how long it might be before their payments arrive.”

In many cases only part of the flock went into the LWDS but the SAPS payments on the whole flock are being delayed, causing serious cash flow problems in some cases.

A Defra spokesman in London told FARMERS WEEKLY that if the farmers had been told by local administrators that they were awaiting guidance then that was the reason the payments had not been made.

One industry pundit said he thought it was possible the delays may be due to uncertainty about “signing off” SAPS claims for which on-farm inspections of sheep and records have not been possible due to foot-and-mouth control restrictions.

But Defra appears unwilling to further clarify the position.