NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw has written to farming minister Victoria Prentis MP to ask for immediate assistance to farmers in need of support with BPS and Environmental Stewardship payments during the coronavirus pandemic.
With disrupted supply chains having an impact on farmers’ ability to manage cashflow, Mr Bradshaw makes the case for the full payment of outstanding 2019 Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship agreements to be released by the end of April with Treasury funding if ordinary processing will not allow payments to be issued.
Mr Bradshaw goes further in asking the RPA to give a BPS 2020 “payment guarantee” so that all claimants receive either their full payment or a bridging loan to a value of 90% of the claim by early December 2020.
The letter also addresses difficulties farmers have had accessing detailed guidance for an accurate BPS application due to social distancing restrictions and requests confirmation that the RPA will provide a penalty-free BPS amendment period to 15 June for those that have not been able to complete their applications by that time, while retaining the 15 May deadline.
Mr Bradshaw has asked Defra to delay the agricultural transition period, including the first BPS reduction scheduled for December 2021, to December 2022, in order to give farmers more time to prepare for the scheme’s phase out.
NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw said:
“The government has taken unprecedented action to protect businesses from financial trauma, but for many farmers these measures either increase the level of debt or are targeted to enterprises they do not have on farm. For thousands of farmers there is an immediate step that Defra could take to assist with cashflow – releasing outstanding 2019 agri-environment and BPS payments and committing to paying future payments promptly.
“Coupled with the immediate disruptive impact of Covd-19 on farmers capability to prepare for change, we believe that Defra should delay the agricultural transition period to December 2022 at the earliest.
“We do not want to see a repeat of previous failings when it comes to introducing new support schemes at this time because a desire to stick to what we see is an increasingly unrealistic original timeline.”
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