Illuminated reindeer sleith © Movementway/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock© Movementway/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock

It’s late November so the Christmas bling of my local town, Clacton-on-Sea, is now in place, putting pressure on the national grid.

I have to admit the run-up to Christmas has lost some of its sparkle for me now my children are too old for advent calendars.

Consequently, I’m no longer to be found in late November, scalpel in hand, carefully dissecting the backs of the calendars, replacing the chocolate treats with dog biscuits and slices of carrot.

The memory of their little faces of thunder as they opened the doctored windows still brings a smile to my face.

They have all moved away now, can’t think why.

See also: Farmers take intensive care of the countryside

Having said that, like many farmers, I still feel that sense of childhood magic in the run-up to the big day.

What will we get? Will it be what we were hoping for? Will it arrive early? Or will it be like last year – a long tortuous wait before the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) finally delivers our Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money.

Guy Smith comes from a mixed farm in Essex. He is also vice-president of the NFU.

And I’m conscious here that there are plenty of farmers out there still waiting for all of what they thought they were going to get last year.

RPA grotto

So as the shortest day approaches, is Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of the RPA, loading his sleigh?

Have his little helpers in the RPA grotto finally sorted out the nasty grinches and the gremlins?

Will those of us who sat on the naughty step last year find ourselves back on it?

Having spent time recently with NFU colleagues talking to RPA top brass (I’ll be honest here, in these discussions I haven’t always been full of Christmas cheer), I’m reasonably confident they will hit their target of 90% paid by Christmas.


But I’m also aware that for those still underpaid for 2015, they will probably be underpaid again.

And as for the 10% completely unpaid by the new year, our demand is that bridging payments must be considered sooner rather than later.

Looking back over the long sorry saga that is BPS 2015, what have we learned?

For some reason, British governments continue to struggle with large IT projects and new agricultural policy regimes.

There may well be a lesson for us here when the usual suspects start suggesting a sophisticated, complicated domestic agricultural policy for the new Brexit world.

Of course, some will suggest we should be brave enough to welcome a world where we walk away from support payments and the maddening bureaucracy that goes with it.

End of support

The fact is most British farmers would welcome a world where no farmers across that world get support payments.

Some would say “bring it on”. We’ve got the climate, the skills, the soils and the boldness to take it on.

But the problem is this. If we are expected to compete against farmers elsewhere in the world who receive greater levels of state support or who have lower costs because of lower standards and lighter regulation then what we need is a level playing field for us to thrive upon.

No doubt this debate will rage on into 2017

Meanwhile, I’ll wish you an early Happy Christmas and a timely BPS payment beforehand.