DEFRA told to find £200m in six months to pay for SFP delivery

The true cost of the debacle surrounding delivery of the Single Farm Payment became apparent this week as DEFRA was forced to slash its budget by nearly £200m over the next six months in search of savings. 

The cuts are likely to be borne in large part by the Environment Agency which is expected to cut nearly £15m from flood defences and £9m from environmental protection.  Natural England, the new body taking over from the Countryside Agency in October, is to lose £12m from its budget just months before it comes in to operation.

However, agri-environment schemes such as the Entry Level Scheme and Higher Level Scheme are not expected to be affected as funds for these are allocated from the central budget and already committed, commented a DEFRA spokesman. 

Those farmers whose cattle are subject to frequent testing for bovine tuberculosis will be relived to learn that the State Veterinary Service was one of two organisations not asked to make savings.  The other being the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

A DEFRA statement on the cuts said: “We are doing our outmost to avoid cuts that will jeopardise important environmental projects. 

“Recently DEFRA has experienced a number of pressures including funding avian influenza incidents and the introduction of a new payment scheme for farmers. 

“It is sensible for all government departments to review spending on a regular basis to ensure that public money is being used in the most effective way.”

A final decision as to the exact amount each agency is forced to save will be made in September, added the spokesman.