NFU survey highlights ongoing BPS 2015 woes

A NFU survey of its members has raised concerns about unresolved payment issues from the 2015 Basic Payment application year.

Early results from a survey of 300 NFU members from across the country found 11% still had outstanding 2015 BPS payment or claims issues.

NFU vice-president Guy Smith said: “The level of clear-up work left over from 2015 is unacceptably large – in effect the RPA [Rural Payments Agency] have more than 8,000 customers who for some reason still haven’t concluded their 2015 application 18 months after submission. That is far too many for comfort.” 

See also: RPA clears first BPS payment target hurdle

However, the survey confirmed an encouraging start by the RPA to the payment performance of the 2016 BPS scheme.

The agency has announced it paid at least 90% of farmers in England their 2016 payment by December. In fact, 78,000 (91%) of eligible farmers received their BPS payment in December.

The survey results also showed:  

  • 90% of respondents have been given their 2016 BPS payment, indicating a much better performance
  • Of 2016 claimants, 10% have still not been paid. This has caused cashflow pressure, the need to borrow more money, problems paying bills and having to sell stock or crops earlier than planned
  • 5% of those paid their 2016 claim noted a shortfall in what they expected to receive.

Mr Smith said the results suggested much improvement from the RPA, but many unpaid or incorrectly paid farmers were “still left in a tangle”.

Appeal for bridging loans

He added: “These early-stage results show that despite a commendable effort by the RPA to get BPS money out to cash-strapped farmers, there is clear evidence the RPA is still stretched. 

“As we move into 2017 it seems the pace of payment has significantly dropped away to a dribble, leaving those in the unpaid 10% worried about cashflow and feeling clueless about when they will see their BPS.”

The RPA is aiming to pay 93% of claimants their 2016 BPS money by the end of March.

The NFU insists bridging payments should be made to unpaid farmers, but the RPA has refused to do so, saying it was focused on paying as many 2016 claims as soon as possible.

Mr Smith added: “With the 2017 claim window fast approaching and expected to be open towards the end of February, I ask for the RPA to take on board what farmers are telling us.”

An RPA spokesman said: “We understand how important BPS payments are to farmers and that’s why we’re working hard to get money into bank accounts as quickly as possible.

“For BPS 2016 the RPA paid 91% of eligible farmers by the end of December 2016. We asked farmers to contact us with any concerns about their 2015 payments and will investigate any new queries which customers raise.”

The agency said 99.5% of farmers had now received a payment on their BPS 2015 claims, totalling £1.4bn.

BPS Watch – keeping tabs on payments

Ongoing delays in 2015 support payments caused huge cashflow problems, stress and anxiety for thousands of farmers.

That is why Farmers Weekly has launched “BPS Watch”, designed to hold Defra and the Rural Payments Agency to account for their promises.

Our initiative – which will also cover Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – will focus on farmers and feature regular stories and payment updates, as we strive to keep government departments and agencies on track.

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