UK farm ministers reject chance to make early basic payments

The UK has rejected the opportunity to make advance direct payments this winter – leaving British farmers at a potential disadvantage to growers and livestock producers in other parts of Europe.

A partial relaxation of rules by Brussels means member states can pay up to 70% of individual direct payments to farmers from 16 October – some six weeks earlier than the start of the payment window, which usually opens on 1 December.

European farm commissioner Phil Hogan said he was prepared to waive the need for inspections to be completed before advance payments can be made.

But Defra and the devolved administrations have each now ruled out payments before 1 December – although other EU member states may do so.

See also: UK receives €36m in farm support from Brussels

Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency, said: “We are not in a position to pay earlier than 1 December.”

The Welsh government, Scottish government and Northern Ireland Executive have all taken a similar stance.

This means that while payments may be made from 16 October to farmers in other EU member states, UK farmers face having to wait.

A Welsh Assembly spokeswoman said payments would be made as soon as possible but not in advance of the usual 1 December date.

She added: “We remain committed to making part payments as early as possible in the payment period.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “We are working flat out to be able to start making Common Agricultural Policy payments before the end of this year, and we will keep the industry updated on the likely timescale given the implications for their cashflows.”

A spokesman for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland said: “Our focus is on ensuring that farmers are notified of their entitlement in November, with payments being made to as many farmers in December as possible.”

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