RPA celebrates ‘strong progress’ on 2017 BPS payments

Guy Smith, National Farmers' Union vice president, at his farm in St Osyth. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Guy Smith, National Farmers' Union vice president, at his farm in St Osyth. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Farmers’ leaders say they are withholding judgment on the Government’s promised swift rollout of farm subsidy payments until the new year.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) announced that more than 54,000 farmers in England received their 2017 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money over the first four days of the payment window.

Payments between December 1 and 6 were made to over 63% of eligible claimants, and worth more than £850m in total. These include a range of 2017 BPS claim types and sizes, as well as those inspected and farmers with common land.

Thanks to increased entitlement values and greening rates, coupled with the favourable BPS exchange rate confirmed in September, basic payments will be worth a quarter more on average this year, compared to 2015.

National Farmers’ Union vice president Guy Smith, who farms near Clacton, said: “As we approach the mid point in December it would seem the RPA are on track to pay 90% plus of BPS claimants by the end of the month. However, we will withhold judgment until the new year.

“Meanwhile we want to see claims statements sent out promptly so recipients can understand what they have been paid.”

He urged the RPA to notify those 5 - 10% of farmers who will face delays after being inspected of the payment delay so they can plan their business cash flow accordingly.

Most Read

He also called for bridging payments to reach these claimants early in the new year.

“Generally the RPA is improving its payment performance but there are still areas of concern such as outstanding issues going back to 2015 and the remapping exercise. Clearly the RPA is still reeling from the IT meltdown in 2015 and is over-stretched. DEFRA need to make sure it is properly resourced so it is fit for purpose.”

RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell said the department was making “strong progress” against last year’s performance and remained focused on getting remaining payments out as quickly as possible.

Farmers should ensure the RPA has up-to-date account details, as BPS payments are made direct to bank accounts via BACS transfer, the agency said. Once a payment has been made a remittance advice is sent in the post, confirming the amount paid.