The Rural Payments Agency is not the most popular body among many of my farmers. The systems it operates in order to assess and make Basic Farm Payments has been widely and rightly criticised – but has improved. However some complex problems remain and now the Secretary of State, Liz Truss has got involved. If any farmers are still awaiting payments and need help they should ring 03000 200 301. Here’s her description of the issues:
“Payments have to be made within the payment window which runs from December 2015 to June 2016. As of this week, 76,500 claims (87 per cent of eligible farmers) have been completed by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). This leaves around 10,000 farmers whose claims are yet to be finalised. This includes:
- Around 5,400 farmers that were inspected. The 2015 scheme required the RPA to carry out more, and different, inspections including for new items such as Ecological Focus Areas. These claims are now being processed.
- Around 3,500 claims from landowners with rights to common land. Following a domestic legal challenge, these claims are taking longer because money has to be distributed between those who use the common, rather than allocating a proportion based on everyone who has a registered right. This approach will mean many commoners can expect a bigger payment but it is more complicated to get these payments right as all claims on the common have to be checked first. This issue will be much reduced in 2016.
- Around 1,000 claims in the final stages of processing.
At a difficult time for the industry, we very much understand the importance of these payments to farmers and the impact for those who have not yet received their 2015 claim. For any farmers who require urgent assistance with their cash flow, the RPA has established a financial hardship process, which has already paid out more than £8 million to 505 farmers. To access the hardship fund, farmers should call 03000 200 301.”