‘RPA must fulfil farm payment promises’

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) must fulfil its pledge to pay 90% of farmers their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money this month, say farm leaders.

The BPS 2017 payment window opens on Friday (1 December) and 88,000 eligible farmers and landowners will be anxious to know if they will be paid promptly.

The Welsh government has already announced that 91% of farmers will receive their BPS money on 1 December.

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Wales’ cabinet secretary for rural affairs Lesley Griffiths said £201m will be paid into the bank accounts of 14,111 Welsh farm businesses on day one of the payments window.

NFU Cymru president Stephen James said the payments would be a “timely boost” for farmers, who are also benefitting from an improved exchange rate, up 4.98% on the 2016 rate.

In Scotland, interest-free loan payments equivalent to 90% of the final BPS subsidy have been paid to thousands of farmers and crofters since early November.

NI advance payments

In Northern Ireland, advance BPS payments and greening payments worth 50% of the value have already been paid to nearly all farmers. The balance is due on Friday (1 December).

The NFU has emphasised the importance of slick payment delivery for farmers in England to remove the uncertainty for farmers.

NFU vice-president Guy Smith said: “News that Scottish and Welsh farmers are receiving payments early makes it absolutely imperative the RPA deliver on their promise of over 90% of English farmers paid by the end of December.

“Furthermore, we are demanding early bridging payments for those not in receipt of their BPS by the new year.

“We also want to see much more progress on outstanding issues from previous years because of the simple fact as 2017 payments go out this will trigger even more clear-up work.”

Defra promise

Mr Smith called on Defra to ensure its agency, the RPA, has the resources and functioning IT to deliver BPS effectively.

Defra minister George Eustice told Farmers Weekly: “We have been very clear that we’re aiming to get out 90% in December as we did last year.”

He added: “I know that the team at the RPA are working very hard to deliver that.”

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