Cash-strapped farmers welcome SFP boost

Cash-strapped farmers received a timely boost this week after single farm payments began to arrive in their bank accounts.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) estimated up to 95% of eligible farmers and landowners were sent their 2014 Single Payment Scheme (SPS) payment on Monday (1 December) – the first banking day of the window.

Meanwhile, the governments in Scotland and Wales have reported making more than 90% of payments.

See also: RPS promises record early SPS payments for England

RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw said: “This year, we are expecting a record performance and are aiming to pay almost 95% of all eligible SPS claims on the first day.”

Andrew Atkinson, associate partner in the farming department at Strutt & Parker in Newbury, Hampshire, welcomed the news.


Single farm payments 2014


% SFP paid on day one

No. of farmers paid to date










Northern Ireland




He said: “It will be a huge relief for a lot of clients who have struggled because of lower commodity values this year. Cashflow is tight for a lot of people.

“I can think of several businesses that are really pinning their hopes on an early receipt of payment.”

NFU president Meurig Raymond agreed it was “encouraging news” for many and would help farm business cashflow following a year when all sectors in England had suffered from significant falls in commodity prices.

But while Mr Raymond welcomed the timely delivery of payments, he called on the RPA to settle the remaining cases “as soon as possible”.

From January, the SPS payment scheme will be replaced in England by the new digital-only Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

Looking ahead, he said the agency needed to set out a clear timetable for the rollout of the new IT system and registration to allow farmers to plan ahead.

The move to a digital-only payments system and the added complexity of the new rules meant farmers would need to spend more time this year preparing their claims.

Therefore Mr Raymond said an early start would be “vital” in a busy farming year.

He added: “Everyone is acutely aware the 15 May deadline creeps closer by the day and being able to get online, register, view and amend data well in advance of this deadline is key to the success in the coming months.”

A Defra spokeswoman said: “We continue to work to a timeline which was announced at the NFU Conference in February as a guide for farmers and landowners.

“We build digital services in a way that allows us to respond to user feedback and make continuous improvements to it. We’re inviting customers in stages to try the beta service for claiming rural payments and using their feedback to make it better for users.

“We’re currently getting land agents registered so they can support their clients and working closely with farmers who have asked for support to register.” 

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