The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has to take swift and decisive action to address ongoing problems with the system of payments for farmers under the 2015 Basic Payment Scheme, says the CLA.
The organisation (which represents landowners, farmers and rural businesses) has made this call following confirmation that the RPA has not met its target of paying 95 percent of farmers by the end of March 2015.
The CLA has also highlighted growing concerns about the number of farmers that are receiving payments which are significantly out of step with what they expected and lacking in explanation as to why that is the case.
CLA President Ross Murray said: “It is a significant concern that the RPA has missed its end of March target, whereby they expected to have paid 95 percent of all 2015 BPS claims. There are some 15,000 that are still anxiously awaiting their payment. Communications appear to be an increasing problem. It is particularly disappointing to hear examples of farmers who received letters in March promising payment within three weeks that subsequently did not arrive. The failure to meet these commitments is causing serious issues for businesses that are already facing cash flow challenges in a difficult marketplace.
“We are also very concerned about the extent of BPS underpayments. Our fear is that the number of claimants who have been underpaid reaches into the tens of thousands and, in some extreme cases, the error amounts to more than 50%. This is causing serious difficulties for farms affected not only this year, but it will also create difficulty and uncertainty for them in making their 2016 claim within the next six weeks.
“It appears that there are still serious weaknesses in the RPA systems. Many of our members have reported missing or incorrect data in their 2016 applications, which does little to restore confidence in the online system. Also there is very little clarity about what a claimant can do to resolve underpayment or missing data issues.
“There is an urgent need for the RPA to acknowledge the scale of the underpayment issues and put in place systems to resolve the problems. We will be providing as much support to Defra and the RPA as possible, but they need to take swift and decisive action.”
The most recent advice update for CLA members in England can be found here