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Government urged to bridge gap for 5,000-plus cash-strapped farmers yet to receive 2018 subsidy

PUBLISHED: 11:16 17 January 2019

About 5,000 farmers are still waiting for their BPS payments  Picture: ANDREW MUTIMER/IWITNESS

About 5,000 farmers are still waiting for their BPS payments Picture: ANDREW MUTIMER/IWITNESS

Andrew Mutimer

The government must do more to help out farmers who didn't receive their farm subsidy payments in December, farmers' leaders say.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) said it had paid 93% of those eligible had received their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) by the end of last year, with 78,787 eligible claimants receiving a total of more than £1.57bn.

But the National Farmers’ Union said the 5,000 plus farmers yet to receive their 2018 payments should get an immediate bridging payment.

MORE – East region’s farm leaders warn of serious harm to sector if ‘no deal’ Brexit goes ahead

“The delivery of BPS is clearly improving, especially considering the challenges in 2018 of updated mapping and greening rule changes, but it is by no means in perfect working order,” said NFU vice president Stuart Roberts. “Timely payments are crucial for farm businesses to be able to manage their cash flow, especially after last year’s extreme weather which put extra pressure on businesses.”

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Tim Breitmeyer welcomed the announcement but warned that delayed BPS payments and continued delay on stewardship payments are causing concerns to many farmers.

“This is welcome progress but those still awaiting payment are experiencing pressure on the business, and in many cases significant stress and worry,” he said.

“The rural economy is already facing an uncertain future in the lead up to Brexit and beyond so delayed BPS payments, alongside these other delays to agri-environment scheme payments are compounding and causing a real dent.

“We have previously called on the Treasury to make early and timely bridging payments and are disappointed these are not forthcoming. They should be made a planned feature of the administrative process for the remainder of BPS, and we will continue to press for them in order to put an end to the annual cycle of uncertainty on this issue.”

RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell said: “We fully appreciate how critical BPS payments are to farmers and their businesses. We have increased efforts to pay more people as early as possible and RPA teams have now landed more than £1.5bn into farmers’ bank accounts. I’m very grateful to them for all their work so far.

“We know there is more to do and that some farmers are still waiting for payments. We have written to everyone we were not able to pay in December and will continue to keep people up-to-date.

“All farmers should make sure the RPA has their up-to-date bank account details. Once a payment has been made a remittance advice is sent in the post, confirming the amount paid. A claim statement will also be sent to explain how payments have been worked out.

The RPA is on track to complete payments significantly ahead of the June 2019 deadline, it said. Those claimants who have not been paid by the end of March will receive a bridging payment worth 75% of the value of their claim.

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