A record number of farmers received their single farm payments in the first week of December, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has confirmed.
The agency made more Single Payment Scheme (SPS) payments than ever before on the first banking day of the payment window (1 December). It paid out £1,370,328,624 to 96,669 SPS customers, which is the equivalent of 95% of all SPS customers and 91.4% of the total estimated fund value.
In a written ministerial statement, Defra secretary Liz Truss said: “Over the last four years the RPA has improved beyond recognition and I am delighted that once again almost all farmers received their CAP funding on the first day of the payment window.
“I congratulate everyone involved at the agency in achieving another record-breaking performance in the final year of the Single Payment Scheme.”
RPA chief executive Mark Grimshaw said the performance showed just how far the agency had come in its drive to become a “trusted, efficient and effective organisation”.
He added: “I want to thank our people and our industry partners who worked so hard to achieve this outcome.”
Over the next couple of months, farmers will be invited to register for the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS), a new digital-only CAP service which will replace BPS.
Mr Grimshaw said: “If farmers want to be paid as early as possible next year, then I would urge them to register on the new rural payments online service as soon as invited to do so.
“For the first year of BPS, there will be lots to do as we gather new information and ask farmers to check that the details we hold are still correct. Once all their details are correct on our new online service it will be a lot quicker to apply in future years.”
Up to Tuesday (9 December), the RPA had paid 97,661 customers a total of £1,391,000,000, which is equivalent to 96% of eligible claims and 92.7% of the fund value for SPS 2014.
Commenting on the RPA’s performance, CLA president Henry Robinson said: “Farmers and land managers rely on the RPA operating efficiently in order to run their business.
“It is positive that the system has been working effectively in the first week after the window for payments opened.”
But he added: “The RPA must stay focused as it manages the significant complexity of the new CAP rules and the new CAP information service IT system.
“It is vital that these standards continue to improve even faced with these challenges, or businesses across the countryside will suffer.”