Farm leaders unimpressed by Hunter review of the Rural Payments Agency

Farm leaders have dismissed the Hunter Review of the Rural Payments Agency as predictable and disappointing.

The review, published by DEFRA on Monday (19 March), concluded that that there should be no radical changes at the RPA until the delivery of the Single Payment Scheme has been stabilised.

David Fursdon, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said: ‘This review is deeply disappointing. It has taken twelve months to say things that we knew already such as “the agency’s priority is getting the Single Payment Scheme sorted” – we didn’t need a report to tell us this.’

“Also, its key recommendation is to set a low aspiration for the RPA’s future performance. It says the RPA’s target in 2008 must be to get “the end to end process from application to payment compressed as nearly as possible within a 12 month period”. Are we supposed to applaud such a lack of ambition?”

The NFU said it agreed with the recommendation that the RPA needed to work more closely with DEFRA and other DEFRA agencies.

It also accepted that overhauling the agency now would be a mistake as it would lead to even more Single Payment Scheme problems, which the industry could ill afford.

But Martin Haworth, NFU director of policy, said: “The DEFRA review brings no major surprises. It reads like a mid-term report that a pupil has written about himself. “Not had an easy time so far, but basically heading in the right direction – must try a little bit harder.”

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