BPS Blog: The haves and have nots

Group Secretaries Day Guy Smith_30225

Guy Smith, NFU Vice President, writes:

So, a new year dawns. It’s time to put 2015 behind us and look forward to 2016. But like a bad New Year’s Day hangover, there are some aspects of 2015 that just won’t go away – namely the wait for BPS payments.

Yesterday [January 4] the RPA announced they had hit their much vaunted target in that just over half the 87,500 claimants had been paid. The problem is that, at farm level, it certainly doesn’t feel like that. I’ve had dozens of calls from members along the lines of ‘I’ve been asking around and no one appears to have been paid – are the RPA dreaming this up?’.  

My view is I don’t think they are being dishonest with the figures - we are assured they are fully audited - but there is clearly a bit of spin going on here.  

Let’s do some maths:

  • The total BPS fund for England is £1.45 billion 
  • The total amount the RPA have got out is £.43 billion
  • That’s 30%, which is substantially less than ‘a majority’

If the RPA have paid 44,000 claims with £ 0.43 billion then that’s any average of just under £10,000 a claim. Meanwhile there are 43,500 farmers waiting for £1bn – that’s an average of over £20,000. 


So while the RPA have paid some larger claims, the vast majority have been, on average, small. As we’ve said before, we appreciate that smaller farmers with smaller payments are just as important as larger ones but we need to keep an eye on the whole picture. 

This is about getting payments out to farm business both large and small and many of these businesses, both large and small, are suffering chronic cash flow problems because of rock bottom commodity prices. 

Furthermore, this outstanding £1 billion, when it eventually gets out to those who need it, will not just hang around in farm bank accounts but will pay bills that will benefit the wider rural economy. There are all sorts of rural businesses, not just farmers, desperately waiting for this money. Additionally there is the impact this will be having on over-draughts. £1 billion at an average borrowing rate of 3.7% equates to over £90,000 in interest everyday being sucked out of the rural economy. So we will keep the pressure on the RPA and their political masters in Defra to avoid thinking things are nicely ‘on track’. The situation needs extra and urgent action.  

Our main concern remains those 15,000 plus people who have been told by the RPA they will not be paid until after the end of January. This category of painfully late recipients also need better information as to when they are actually going to be paid. No one can sensibly run a business on the basis they might be paid ‘sometime after January.’

Meanwhile we continue to keep a sharp eye on the next application year to make sure we don’t get a repeat of this present shambles in twelve months’ time.

  • Posted by: Bob FidlerPosted on: 06/01/2016 17:25:42

    Comment: The BPS shambles appeared to have spread to the Stewardship Entry Level Scheme payments. I thought all of my 2015 payments were due to be settled before the end of the year according to the new schedule Imposed a while ago. I am still waiting for the 50% of the amount due.

    Waste of time trying to contact them.

    Why is the UK so bad in supporting its farmers?

    My Brother has a farm in France and the French Government ensured its farmers had cash for their 2015 claims paid in early Autumn.
  • Posted by: Alasdair LowePosted on: 06/01/2016 17:42:19

    Comment: I represent my family farm in Suffolk and on 24th December (yes, Christmas Eve) I received a letter from the rpa to say that there was a query over areas used to complete the BPS2015 form which were not the same as those held by the rpa. We all take the areas on the forms in good faith, non-ag areas were removed and the parcels split for greening purposes, but the rpa insist that the areas are wrong. They also state, bluntly, that penalties may apply and if so they will write separately to tell me. However, the very annoying fact is that I did not receive one of the letters informing me of late payment - so how does this system work? Are the rpa hanging on to payments for a lot of farms with queries over RLE1 forms and queries such as ours? An answer would be expected, but even having written to them I don't actually expect a sensible reply.
  • Posted by: Howard JohnsonPosted on: 06/01/2016 22:58:29

    Comment: Thank you for keeping up the pressure for us smaller farmers. Wait for the postman every morning in the hope that something will turn up . starting to get very depressed HJ
  • Posted by: Robert BarrPosted on: 07/01/2016 08:18:27

    Comment: These figures from RPA are a figment of someone's imagination. I have met many farmers recently at meetings and social functions and none have been paid. it would have been far better if RPA had paid no payments until they were ready and then paid everyone at once. now nobody believes them, and the few lucky ones who have been paid must feel pretty guilty. Come on NFU, prove your worth and start kicking!
  • Posted by: Michael MoorPosted on: 07/01/2016 09:49:20

    Comment: I have not had any payment as of 6th Jan, and had any information when it will arrive.
  • Posted by: J HattPosted on: 07/01/2016 09:52:59

    Comment: We received the delayed payment letter, so I rang immediately to find out why, as we don't have common land etc.

    RPA, as courteous as ever, told me we had definitely cleared all checks, and could be paid sooner than the end of January.

    However, I fear that having been sent "the letter" , we will now be put into the "pay later"

    NFU must find out exactly why RPA are NOT paying out on applications that have passed the checks - and tell us.
  • Posted by: Richard VinesPosted on: 07/01/2016 11:41:38

    Comment: I fully agree with your sentiments. What have they been up to for the past 5 months and how have they only processed some 11000 farmers in December.This would suggest that it could take another 4 months to process the remainder of the claims. The suggestion of making part payments seems quite strange as presumably they have our details so if making part payment why not make it all. Do we have any opportunity to claim back interest on overdrafts incured while we await payment as they are quick to penalise us for late forms or errors on them. The whole system is hugely geared up against the farmer the tone of the language used in the documents shows us the contempt with which they hold our industry. They feel we are attempting at every opportunity to get the upper hand and no benefit of doubt is given for genuine mistakes orattempts to do the best we can. I am extremely dishartened with the whole situation and look to the nfu and others to help restore a little balance in the system. For Liz Truss to make the claim that they had paid the majority on jan 4th when then had almost done 51% is a travesty. What can the vast majority mean 55% ? Rant over,
  • Posted by: Joseph HillPosted on: 07/01/2016 15:05:25

    Comment: Iunderstood a letter would arrive when payment had been
    made, although our payment was on the 1st day no payment
    slip has arrived yet.It wasnt untill a bank statement came for
    December that it was in the bank.
  • Posted by: Hilary HawkinsPosted on: 07/01/2016 15:34:42

    Comment: I rang up RPA or whatever a couple of days ago and would say that they have perfected their stonewalling technics, no one would answer my questions, put me off saying the website should be up and running this month. The only person who gave me answer was over the old ELS scheme and told me how much we had outstanding to be paid. I was concerned because I was and have been trying to find out more about the Common grazing entitlements because we were allocated pieces of land on our common which I know either belonged to the common or a neighbouring farmer's, knowing exactly where the parcels were. No one could give me a logical answer over 3 or 4 phone calls as to why these decisions had been made, but because something festered in my brain at being told I did not have enough entitlements to claim commons grazing even though it has been on our claim forms since 2005 when we bought our house and land I started re asking the questions at the beginning of this week, because we started to wonder, as we have not been paid, that they had wiped us out in the debacle. The land was all there up until the computer crash because to keep the online data live I started to give the fields their names. Hence all the stonewalling and no one being able to tell me what fields we had registered to us. When told only the mapping people would be able to tell us, I said get them to leave an answerphone message as to what field numbers we have as I could not hang around all day, to be told oh they cannot ring you back for at least a month. But because I am concerned we have been wiped out I asked the question please tell me in your own words what are the 5 entitlements I wish to hear them from your office in your words, this was declined. But would only say if we had more than 5 hectares and had been claiming since 2005 under the SFP scheme, we would be covered, but still would not say what the 5 entitlements were to go with the 5+ hectares. So having been told by one department we did not have enough entitlements for t
  • Posted by: Robert HamiltonPosted on: 07/01/2016 18:06:16

    Comment: I know of only one person out of 22 asked in this area that has been paid their BPS monies and he was paid in the first tranche in early December.As usual with the RPA and Government the spin and falsehoods continue.
  • Posted by: Gavin LanePosted on: 13/01/2016 11:03:00

    Comment: I think the point Guy makes about the interest is a good point although the situation is actually made worse by compound interest. The other side to all of this is the equality issue. I would never begrudge my fellow farmer his BPS early but it seems ludicrous that the EU get so hung up about double funding through subsidy schemes but seem quite happy to let governments pay their farmers at different times of the year. I still have no idea why the payments can't all be paid on a certain day of the year and the RPA then spends the rest of the year recovering any money it feels has been paid out wrongly.
  • Posted by: Peter RivettPosted on: 13/01/2016 14:38:02

    Comment: I am a tenant farmer in Norfolk, the RPA wrote to me in December and told me not to expect payment until after January but gave no indication of when I would be paid, eventually I discovered that because the farm was subject to a 3 day inspection in late September and a few quite minor changes were needed I shall now have to wait for the RPA to produce new maps which could take months, surely todays technology could amend a couple of maps in minutes not months, or an interim payment could have been made while they sort it out. To make matters worse Natural England have at a stroke deferred my HLS payments by up to a year citing EU 'realignment' as a valid reason to destroy the trust and partnership that we once had, these two outstanding amounts from government agencies adds up to a substantial debt of money.
  • Posted by: T J ArmourPosted on: 14/01/2016 12:04:57

    Comment: As I graze a Common I have been told will not receive BPS payment until after the end of Jan. I am the only grazier of this Common, 200 acres, and my details of the main farm, 240 acres, adjacent to this Common, have not changed for 32 years ie. IACS,ESA SFP & BPS.I am also a member of HLS/OELS from which half of my spring 2015 payment was deducted & not repaid until end of scheme 2021 !!
    I am now in serious cash flow situation, & the bank has put a stop on the o/d, with a quarterly rent payment due 1/1/16 + feed bills etc. Where do I go from here This Farm supports 3 families. Sussex NFU reps aware.
  • Posted by: John T StablesPosted on: 07/02/2016 19:28:41

    Comment: Told we would get our payment January 2016 when rang in late December 2015.Well in FEBRUARY and still waiting. told that would get a letter although nothing. banks dont want to help and this governments and there antics are just a joke. What more can i say ? I could have wrote cheques out and still farms would have got them in time!!!! JOKERS COME TO MIND....