Rural Payments Agency - Where are we up to?

Rural Payments Agency – Where are we up to?
The new Basic Payment Scheme replaced the old Single Farm Payment Scheme earlier this year although there seemed to be very little ‘basic’ about the administration of it!  The Rural Payments Agency claim to be on track to commence making payments under the scheme in December with a promise of 30,000 farmers being paid on 1st December, although as I write I have not heard of any cheques arriving on farm.  Payments are likely to continue into early 2016 and many will be waiting with baited breath for them to arrive.  However delays can be expected due to outstanding issues such as penalties, land and/or entitlement transfers and New & Young Farmer payments.  Letters are have been sent out to all New & Young Farmers to confirm whether they have been successful in their application for entitlements.

The RPA reports that a new computer system is due to be released in early spring in readiness for 2016 claims, enabling claimants to make their application on-line.  This was, of course, planned for the 2015 claims and one would hope that having had a whole year to complete the project we will, indeed, be able to process claims on-line next year.

On a rather more worrying note, the number of inspections seems to have increased this year and inspection breaches seem to be predominantly concerned with NVZ and livestock movement issues.   NVZ issues include a lack of field records on farm, failure to adhere to the limitations of manure and fertiliser issues, failure to update records on an annual basis and failure to provide five years of historical records.  When it comes to livestock movement issues there are reports of problems with sheep licence records, cattle movement books and the registration of cattle movements and deaths. Worryingly, fines are ranging from 3% for a minor breach, 5% for a medium breach and up to 20% for a consistent breach of the rules.  The Cattle Tracing Scheme (CTS) on the RPA website might provide some farmers with assistance and peace of mind although this does, of course, depend on a stable and consistent internet link.   

Help for the dairy farmers – is it too late?
On November 16th Farming Minister George Eustice announced that EU support payments would be made to help hard-pressed UK dairy farmers manage cash flow problems ahead of schedule, with the first payments made to over 10,000 farmers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland amounting to approximately £19.2 million.  This was a direct result of the UK Government securing £26.6 million from the European Commission in September to help dairy farmers affected by the current global volatility in milk prices.   Muller Wiseman promised in December to hold its non-aligned farmgate milk price until at least February 2016 – the fifth month in a row that the price has held steady and perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel. However, for many this may be too little too late.

Daniel Bowden BSc(Hons), MRICS, FAAV is Senior Rural Surveyor with Barbers Rural Consultancy LLP in Market Drayton.