9 August 2002

Late payouts bring beef interest call

By Isabel Davies

BEEF farmers have been told to demand interest payments after the Rural Payments Agency revealed it still owes £63m in late livestock subsidy payments.

The agency announced in May that payments would be late because claims had to be cross-checked against the British Cattle Movement Service database to meet EU rules.

But it predicted that most of the 2001 balancing payments would have been made by the end of July. Latest figures from the agency reveal that farmers are still owed millions of £s.

On Aug 1, the agency still had to pay nearly £24m of extensification payments, £20m of slaughter premiums and a further £11m worth of suckler cow premiums.

And although in percentage terms most Beef Special Premium payments have been paid, there is still another £7m to go to farmers.

A statement from the RPA said the cross-checking exercise had thrown up a significant level of anomalies and it was disappointing progress on resolving them had proved to be slow.

But the agency went on to say that it was pleased to report that most funds – £208m – across the schemes, had been paid.

It added: "RPA acknowledges the difficulties that delays are causing for producers and are striving to clear the remaining payments as quickly as possible."

Robert Sheasby, NFU livestock IACS advisor, said the union had raised the issue with the chief executive of the RPA and ministers on several occasions.

"What they have told me is they have not got the space or the staff to process claims. They have also said they are waiting for farmers to get back to them with information."

Mr Sheasby said the question of whether farms would be able to claim interest on their money had still to be resolved. But the union was advising farmers to at least notify the RPA of their intention to claim interest if it became possible.

But he warned that if the RPA did agree to pay interest some farmers might not benefit because it was likely interest would only be paid if it exceeded £50. "We are talking interest on 20% of the full payments so not every farmer is going to achieve this."

The RPAs position is that delays are likely to be because of discrepancies between claim details and those recorded on the BCMS. Claims for compensation will be considered on their merits but are unlikely to be met if mismatches result from incorrect details notified by producers. &#42