Basic Payment Scheme Rural Payment Agency forms © Tim Scrivener

Farm leaders are seeking assurances from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) that it is fully focused on making BPS payments in December.

With less than a month to go before the opening of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) window on 1 December, the NFU warned there were still “far too many unknowns” around the progress of claims.

RPA boss Mark Grimshaw stated at NFU Council in October that the majority of the 88,000 farmers and agents in England who submitted claims could expect to be paid in December, and the “vast majority” would be paid by January.

See also: Early BPS payments give French and Irish the edge

But NFU vice-president Guy Smith said he would be seeking assurances from Mr Grimshaw that the RPA’s payments timetable was still on course in a meeting to be held this Friday (6 November).

“While we appreciate the RPA is working seven days a week to process claims, we have concerns around the next phases of work on claims,” Mr Smith said.

“The RPA is using a new IT system with a number of software releases still to be made and should now be in the middle of the post-data-capture phases work – which is the validation and verification of claims. 

“Added to this it also needs to tie in information received via the RLE1 forms for land changes. There is still a lot to do.”

Mr Smith urged the RPA to continue to be transparent on progress and notify farmers if the payments were going to be delayed to allow farm businesses to make allowances.

“We are on track to start making payments from December with the majority before the end of December and the vast majority by the end of January 2016”
Justin Chamberlain, RPA 

He said the RPA needed to have a contingency plan that could be used as an alternative action plan if the original plan fails.

“Of particular concern to the NFU is over the ability of the RPA to deliver payments to those farmers who are also commoners, many of which are situated in upland areas, given the different approach to the allocation of common land this year,” he added.

RPA customer director Justin Chamberlain said: “We understand how hard-pressed farmers are and how important prompt payments are to them.

“We’ve input the vast majority of all claim data into the Rural Payments system and we’re now working on land and entitlement transfers.

“We are on track to start making payments from December with the majority before the end of December and the vast majority by the end of January 2016.”