Farmers threaten action in response to SFP shambles

Farmers in the East Midlands are warning they will be forced into taking action against the government unless someone sorts out the single farm payment situation.

Anger reached boiling point among farmers attending a meeting of Leics, Northants and Rutland NFU last week.

Members called for a policy of non-cooperation with the government to underline the seriousness of the situation.

“Now that the full extent of the chaos has been revealed, farmers are outraged that the RPA computer subsystems are in complete disarray, despite assurances from the minister that delivery would be on time,” said regional director Jack Ward.

“This is not just a farming issue, any more,” he added.

“The government’s failure to keep its promises is now having a wider effect on other allied businesses.

“It’s time that the farming community was told the truth about the RPA’s incompetence. Unless someone takes hold of this situation and sorts it out pretty quickly, farmers will take action to make the extent of their feelings known to the government.”

But Essex farmer Guy Smith – who spends a significant amount of time campaigning to improve the image of farming -sounded a note of caution about farmers taking action.

“The popular cartoon image of farmers as subsidised moaners is a very damaging one. If we are seen to be loudly and publicly complaining that we haven’t got our support payments then we will inevitably reinforce that negative image,” he said.

“While it is clear government incompetence is damaging the farming industry and the greater rural economy, we must be very careful how we go about putting that message out. When I hear farmers angrily protesting that this would never happen to welfare claimants my PR alarm bells start to ring.

“A once proud industry is now tempted to wilfully compare itself to people on welfare.”

More details of how the government intends to sort out the SFP mess are expected to emerge in the next couple of days.

Anne McIntosh, MP for the Vale of York, has secured an adjournment debate on the subject on Wednesday (29 March).

Farm leaders are also due to meet junior DEFRA minister Lord Bach for another update.

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