Farms’ debt smashes through £10bn barrier

Farm debt has broken the £10bn-mark for the first time as the crisis-rocked Rural Payments Agency continues to fail to deliver single farm payments.

Estimates suggest that the debt is increasing by £13m a month in interest payments alone as almost 90% of farmers wait for SFPs to arrive.

Just 14,475 (12.1%) of claimants had received their payments as Farmers Weekly went to press on Wednesday, 22 March.

About £103m had been paid out by Wednesday morning representing only 6.5% of the £1.6bn total.

The Country Land and Business Association’s Allan Buckwell calculated that at the present rate, by mid May there would be more than 46,500 farmers still to receive SFPs and a large number could remain unpaid beyond 1 June and perhaps into July.

If DEFRA does not get payments made by July, Brussels may withhold funds (disallowance) and the UK Treasury will have to dig deeper into its coffers to pay farmers.

According to one industry insider a situation where the British taxpayer was forced to pay a bigger slice of the farm support bill could prove a media disaster for the Labour government.

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