Two-thirds of farmers in England have received their 2018 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money – an improvement on previous years, but still the lowest percentage among UK countries.
According to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), 65% of farmers were paid their BPS money on 3 December – the first day of the payment window.
Payments on 3 December were made to 55,179 of about 87,000 eligible claimants, worth more than £853.6m in total. These include a range of 2018 BPS claim types and farm sizes.
The RPA says it is “on track” to pay at least 90% of eligible farmers and landowners their BPS payments by the end of December.
“We know how important payments are to farmers and their businesses,” said RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell.
“We’ve worked hard to make significant progress compared with last year’s performance and we remain focused on getting remaining payments into bank accounts as soon as possible.”
But the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said although the RPA’s payment performance is better than at this time last year, it still defies understanding that it has not been possible to get closer to all of the payments due out the door this week – given that claims have been worked on since May.
‘Huge difficulties’ for farmers
TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “With the huge difficulties many farmers will have faced this year, not least with the weather, and the continuing pressure on livestock farmers in securing fodder, it is really important the remaining payments hit bank accounts as soon as possible.”
The NFU and CLA have been lobbying Defra and the RPA to issue advance bridging payments to all farmers who are not scheduled to receive their BPS money this month.
But the Defra has so far turned down the request, saying it aims to pay farmers “as soon as possible”.
In Wales, rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths said more than 85% of farmers’ BPS 2018 claims were made on the first day of the payment window (3 December), meaning more than £181m will be paid into the bank accounts of more than 13,200 Welsh farm businesses.
In Northern Ireland, 97% of farm businesses were paid their BPS money on 3 December, worth £85m in total.
Meanwhile, farmers and crofters in Scotland have already benefitted from advance interest-free BPS bridging loans.