Act now on SPS payments, urges MP

An influential Labour MP has called on the government to act now to avoid long-term problems with the computer system at the Rural Payments Agency.

The IT system for the single payments is due to be replaced for the next period of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which runs from 2014-2020.

But waiting until after CAP reform would be too late to avoid a repeat of problems affecting farmers, said Thomas Docherty, MP for Dunfermline and West Fife.

“As farmers have discovered to their cost, the IT system at the RPA is phenomenally complicated,” he told Farmers Weekly.

“It is a big ticket item and you can’t simply wait until the CAP is agreed before you start to think about it.”

Delayed payments resulting from ongoing problems with the current IT system showed how important it was start making plans now.

Mr Docherty is a member of the cross-party House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

“Farmers are facing an unprecedented level of hardship that is not going to go away if we don’t get payments sorted out in the long term,” he said.

“It will just get worse and worse.”

Farming leaders have said they are disappointed by DEFRA‘s refusal to make partial SPS payments.

Mr Docherty’s comments came after the government ruled out making partial payments to farmers still waiting for their annual subsidy cheque.

Farm minister Jim Paice said partial payments “would not significantly increase the speed” at which remaining claims were paid to farmers.

Instead, fully validated manual payments are being made to some 2000 farmers under the 2010 single payment scheme over the next two months.

At the beginning of April, there were some 6,300 eligible claims remaining to be paid, with a combined value of around £215 million.

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