The RPA must iron out a number of problems that still exist with 2015 BPS payments, the NFU said today, with less than three months until the 2016 window opens.
The NFU says it is concerned after members said they did not have the confidence that the RPA would sort out remaining issues with 2015 applications – such as for remaining payments, mapping and dealing with any appeals – unless it acted quickly and efficiently.
NFU Vice President Guy Smith said that this continued delay in resolving 2015 claims was adding pressure on the validation for 2016.
“Travelling round the country talking to farmers and agents, it is staggering just how many feel that BPS 2015 is far from complete or resolved,” he added. “15 months on from when these claims were submitted and just three months away from the opening of the 2016 payment window, the atmosphere is best described as fraught. As we enter a third year of low commodity prices, cash-flow problems are becoming compounded and the impact of delayed BPS or HLS/ELS payments becomes more pronounced. This is causing real stress and serious hardship.
“We already gather the annual cross check between BPS and agri-environmental schemes is running later than it has historically taken place.
“Of particular concern are those livestock producers in the uplands and with common land who need to restock their sheep flocks in the current round of autumn sales and are waiting for BPS monies. Cash needs to flow from the RPA to farmers.
Mr Smith also said that the NFU had always doubted there were only 13,500 underpayment cases to be resolved and feared there were many more the system had not picked up.
“I would urge the RPA to issue entitlement statements for the first year of BPS to help farmers understand and confirm their entitlements starting point. This is critical if entitlements have been added from the national reserve or taken away due to the rules in place. Farmers need to know this basic information before their BPS 2016 payments arrive,” he added.
“And the RPA needs to provide commoners the breakdown of the common land element of their claims to help them understand the impact of the new approach to common land allocation.
“Ultimately, there are a lot of questions. The RPA needs to up its game on communicating to farmers the outcomes of 2015 land-based inspections and the outcome of the payment reconciliation work and support if farmers wish to challenge the RPA’s confirmed position, so they can at least know the status of their previous claims.
“We will continue to meet with the RPA to raise the concerns of our members and we hope these issues can be resolved sooner rather than later. Despite our doubts over the promise that 90% of 2016 payments will be made by the end of December we are determined to hold the RPA to it. If between now and the opening of the payment window in December we see any backtracking on that promise then we will call on Defra to issue bridging payments instead.”