British farmers to miss out on SFP advances?

pic RPA document shot?

Brussels officials have given the go-ahead for member states to make an early single farm payment this year to help farmers struggling with high costs and poor cash flow.

The plan was first mooted at the end of May when EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel told farm ministers she wanted to allow up to 70% advances to be paid from 16 October, rather than waiting until the normal December start date.

“Dairy farmers, but also many other farmers in all 27 member states, are facing serious financial and cash-flow difficulties as a result of low agricultural prices and high input costs,” she said at the time.

“I have decided to do as much as possible to alleviate these difficulties.”

And this week, member state representatives on the direct payments management committee voted almost unanimously to allow the 70% advances from 16 October. Only Belgium and Portugal said no.

The measure will be formally adopted in the next few weeks, and it will then be up to the UK authorities in each region to decide whether to make a payment.

So far there is little sign from any of the UK regions that they will do so.

A statement from DEFRA said the Rural Payments Agency would be carrying out an assessment of the impact of making an early payment on the timetable for all SFP claimants.

The Welsh Assembly government, meanwhile, said it would not want to do anything that jeopardised the maximum number of payments going out in December.

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• For a Farmers Weekly comment on this story, see Phil Clarke’s Business Blog