Nearly two-thirds waiting for Countryside Stewardship cash

Almost two-thirds of farmers are still waiting for their Countryside Stewardship (CS) money, with three months of the payment window left, according to new figures.

Defra said in its update on farm payment schemes that 37% of eligible CS customers have been paid their full claim ahead of the June deadline.

The NFU welcomed improvements in the delivery of agri-environment scheme payments in the past year, but said it was still not where it needed to be.

See also: Countryside Stewardship payment delays compounded by flooding

Farmers were told they would receive a single payment between December last year and June 2020 for CS claims submitted in 2019.

NFU countryside adviser Alisha Anstee said the uncertainty of not knowing when payments would be received was causing farmers cash flow problems. 

She added: “The payment window leads to financial planning issues for our members; 63% of CS agreement holders are still awaiting 2019 monies with no details of if payment will arrive in the next week or in three months.”

Defra said payments for stewardship schemes have started to arrive four months earlier than last year, with farmers receiving one full payment for the first time as part of plans to deliver a better service.

For Environmental Stewardship (ES) claims, 77% of eligible farmers and land managers have been paid, worth a total of £133m.

Ms Anstee said: “ES is in a better place, with the majority of agreement holders having been paid their full claim value now. We hope to see this level of payment maintained or improved in the weeks ahead to translate into all agreement holders being paid ahead of the June deadline.”

99% of BPS payments made

Meanwhile, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has now paid almost 99% of eligible farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme.

RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell said it was “working tirelessly” to ensure remaining payments for all schemes were made as quickly as possible.

In Scotland, more than 17,400 farmers and crofters have received their individual allocation of convergence funding from an £86.2m pot.

The initial payments are the first tranche of a £160m package from the UK government to rectify a historic wrong relating to EU Common Agricultural Policy funding that it failed to pass on to Scotland between 2014-18.

Every eligible farmer or crofter will be paid by the end of March.

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