Farmers whose Single Farm Payment was more than it should have been will be asked to repay the money within weeks, the Rural Payments Agency has warned.
Although an exact date has yet to be announced, the start of the process of collecting overpayments was imminent, said an agency spokeswoman. But the agency would not be pursuing repayment if the overpaid amount was less than £70, she added.
European Commission regulations required that overpayments of public funds of more than E100 (£70) must be reclaimed, said the spokeswoman. The agency would therefore not be seeking any repayments below that level.
“In light of any possible inconvenience an overpayment may have caused customers, the RPA will handle all overpayments in a sensitive and flexible way, with a range of options being made available.”
Asked whether farmers would be able to repay money in instalments, the spokeswoman declined to comment. Each farm would be dealt with on a sympathetic case-by-case basis to find the most appropriate repayment option.
Farmers who had been underpaid could expect to receive the necessary top-up payments as their cases come to light, the spokeswoman added. Claimants are advised to contact the agency if they feel they are entitled to more money.
“Where appropriate, interest will be paid separately. Customers will then receive a remittance notification and where possible, an updated payment statement advising them of their payment.”
As of 24 October, there were 352 claims where processing has not yet been completed for 2006. Agency officials were urgently seeking to resolve any outstanding issues, said the spokeswoman.
Meanwhile, the agency is working to validate and process as many 2007 claims as quickly as possible with the aim of making full payments where possible once the new payment window, which opens on 1 December, is reached.
But one in four farmers can expect a wait of at least four months before receiving their money. This is because agency’s target is to make only 75% of all payments by 31 March 2008 and the payment window runs to 30 June.