Farmers may have to wait until September for set-aside rate

THE RURAL Payments Agency has admitted that it is unlikely to be able to confirm the 2006 set-aside rate until late August or even early September.

Although under EU rules farmers are meant to be told what the rate will be by Aug 1, the agency has conceded that it is not in a position to do so now.

“The RPA is currently analysing the 2005 Single Payment Scheme application data to prepare an accurate assessment of whether the set-aside rate needs to be adjusted,” said a spokeswoman.

“Once this assessment has been completed, it will be cleared with senior policy advisers and [DEFRA] ministers. The RPA understands the urgency in providing this information but is keen to ensure the assessment is robust. We do not, therefore, expect to make an announcement before the end of August or early September.”

The announcement met with a firm retort from Arthur Hill, NFU combinable crops chairman.

“I’m bitterly disappointed although not surprised. Quite frankly, it’s not acceptable,” said Mr Hill.

“Previous commitments by the RPA to us [NFU] and DEFRA that they would meet these deadlines now ring pretty hollow,” he added.

Mr Hill said he intended to plan for next year on the basis that the rate would remain at 8%, but should it go up, by say 1%, he felt he could easily accommodate the change by cutting his area of industrial oilseed rape.

“Generally DEFRA have tried to be helpful, but this is becoming typical of the RPA when meeting deadlines,” added Mr Hill.