End in sight for farm payments saga

FARMERS in England will finally receive their first payments under the new EU agricultural support system by the end of March, the Government said yesterday.

FARMERS in England will finally receive their first payments under the new EU agricultural support system by the end of March, the Government said yesterday.

Pay-outs under the Single Payment Scheme will start at the end of February with the bulk of the £120,000 claims - valued at around £1.6billion - due to be settled by the end of March, said Farming Minister Lord Bach.

The new-style payments replace the previous system of 11 separate schemes and, unlike the former subsidies, they are linked not to production but to environmental and other land management requirements.

Yesterday's long-awaited announcement from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) follows a critical report into the issue by a House of Commons committee which accused the Government of poor planning for the new scheme and of allowing costs to spiral out of control.


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With no EU payments having been received for more than a year, many farmers have faced serious cash flow problems and have had to rely instead on support from their bank.

There were suggestions that the Rural Payments Agency, which is responsible for the scheme in England, might seek to speed up the process by making part-payments but this has now been ruled out.

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David Fursdon, president of the Country Land & Business Association, said yesterday: “We welcome this statement as we did not want messy 'partial' payments in March.

“However, statements are merely words; our members not be happy until they receive the money upon which their businesses and livelihoods depend.

“Also, we want to see what constitutes 'the bulk'. We are very concerned about those who fall foul of the system in some way, particularly as it is not their fault.

“The RPA must pay attention to the needs of the minority as well as the majority,” he added.

The National Farmers' Union also welcomed yesterday's announcement and called for 96% of payments to be made by the end of March.

NFU president Tim Bennett said: “The Rural Payments Agency must make sure that it gets as close to its original 96% target as possible. We will maintain pressure on it to respect that.”

James Brooke of rural property services firm Bidwells also welcome the decision not to make part payments and the clarity provided by the announcement on the timetable for pay-outs.

However, with confirmation of the acceptance of claims having been so long in coming, he urged the RPA to consider extending the deadline for farmers seeking to take advantage of the facility to trade their entitlements.

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