After an encouraging start with just over 36,000 payments made in the first eight days of the window, NFU survey results suggest that less than 25 per cent of farmers have received a payment. The NFU said this is a real cause for concern, particularly when compared with the RPA quote of 41 per cent of payments issued.
The NFU’s survey throws into doubt the RPA’s ability to reach its own target of 50 per cent of payments made in December. This is why the NFU is calling on Defra and the RPA for greater transparency in their reporting on payment progress. This, the NFU said, must have reference to both the number of farmers paid and the total value of those claims.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “We know there were 15,000 letters sent to farmers in early December to say it’s unlikely they will receive a payment by the end of January.
"Many are now in a situation where they are without a payment or a letter stating their payment will be delayed – these are the farmers that we are particularly concerned about."
Meurig Raymond, NFU President
“If the RPA cannot make the vast majority of payments by the end of January, as promised, then they must tell the farmers who are expecting payment. In our view, vast majority must be at least 85-90 per cent of claims in volume and value. No one can plan on false hope and uncertainty.
“Many farmers have monthly commitments that they will not be able to meet without these payments. In our view Defra and the RPA now need to plan for partial payments to be issued to anyone not paid by early February as no business can operate effectively with such uncertainty at this time. It is also important to remember that no payments punish not only farm businesses but the rest of the rural economy too."
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “Our concerns also take into account the impact that the delays forecasted will have on the 2016 claim process.
“We know many members had to change their 2015 applications following RPA guidance to update land areas. The RPA must ensure that 2015 farmer changes are processed and pre-populated on the 2016 claim form, especially as there will be less application time next year as we are working to a mid-May application deadline in 2016.
“To ensure this year’s delayed payments do not impact on BPS 2016, we need Defra and the RPA to, at the very least, be able to maintain the current level of resources until the 2016 applications are safely logged."
"There is no margin for error at present with the RPA already working seven days a week, but ring fencing resource going forward can help manage the RPA’s destiny.”
Guy Smith, NFU Vice President
The NFU will be carrying out more survey work with members in the New Year to verify RPA performance.