The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is to make 50% bridging payments to farmers in England still waiting for their 2015 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money.
RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw made the announcement at an NFU Council meeting in Warwickshire on Tuesday (19 April).
Bridging payments would be made to the 10% of farmers yet to receive their 2015 BPS money in recognition of the cashflow pressures they are facing, he said.
These final cases were proving more difficult to process than had been anticipated, said Mr Grimshaw, because of complications caused by a new inspection regime.
Mr Grimshaw confirmed that with about 10% of farmers left to pay it was now possible to administer bridging payments in a rigorous and swift fashion.
The bridging payments will be made by the end of April, said Mr Grimshaw.
As with RPA’s established process for making hardship payments, the bridging payments would be based on around half of their claim value, he said.
“We know how important these payments are for farmers and our priority has always been to get the majority of farmers payments as quickly as possible,” said Mr Grimshaw.
“We are now processing the last 10% of complex claims and recognise this is taking longer than we anticipated.
“With the bulk of farmers paid, we are now introducing bridging payments to ease financial cashflow for those farmers still awaiting full payment.
“We hope this step offers some help while we continue working seven days a week to complete our processing of remaining 2015 claims.”
The 2015 BPS scheme required the RPA to carry out more, and different, inspections because of the new greening requirements, said Mr Grimshaw.
This included new items for inspection such as ecological focus areas.
Meanwhile, common land claims had taken longer due to the new approach this year.
This approach distributes money only between those who use the common, rather than allocating a proportion based on everyone who has a registered right.
Exchequer-funded, bridging payments ‘bridge’ the gap until claims are validated and funds can be reclaimed from Europe.
Mr Grimshaw also told the NFU Council that applications for BPS 2016 continue to come in, with more than 14,400 online applications submitted and 2,300 paper applications received so far.
With four weeks to go to the 2016 deadline on 16 May, all farmers are now urged to make sure they submit their 2016 application as soon as possible.
New features have been added to the support available to 2016 BPS applicants, making it easier to access some of the help needed.
The new features include an option for agents to speak directly to a dedicated team.
There is also a 24/7 automated service for applicants who have a paper application form but want to apply online for the first time.
To set up an online application form, applicants just need to call 03000 200 301 and key in their SBI number and contact details.
Farmers and agents who want to add land parcels to their application can now email firstname.lastname@example.org to have these included.
Alternatively, they can fill in a continuation booklet and post it to the RPA..
All those who applied for BPS in 2015 should now have received a paper version of the How to claim BPS online guidance. This is available on Gov.uk.