Rush to complete farm subsidy claims

Farmers and growers have just nine days to return claims for the 2006 Single Farm Payment by the deadline of Monday, May 15.But yesterday, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced that late claim penalties will not be applied to forms received by May 31.

Farmers and growers have just nine days to return claims for the 2006 Single Farm Payment by the deadline of Monday, May 15.

But yesterday, Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) announced that late claim penalties will not be applied to forms received by May 31.

Farming Minister Lord Bach urged farmers to submit their 2006 Single Payment Scheme applications to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) by May 15.

He announced that penalties will not be applied to applications received between May 15 and 31 to the "huge relief" of the NFU.


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Speaking at the Easy Sheep event in Melton Mowbray, Lord Bach, said: "I think it is right that every farmer should have a reasonable amount of time to complete the form. In recognition of this, the normal late claim penalties will not apply until June 1."

Many farmers are still waiting for the official 2006 forms to arrive, but arrangements have been made for copies to be obtained from Newmarket.

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The shambles of the 2005 delayed payments continues as the latest figures reveal that just one-third of the £1.6bn has been made to the 120,000 claimants in England. Yesterday, Shadow Agriculture spokesman James Paice warned that taxpayers could be fined £20m or even more by Brussels for failing to get the Single Farm Payments made by the June 30 deadline.

The Cambridgeshire South East MP said that Defra had asked the European Commission to extend the payment deadline from the end of June to October 15, the last day of Europe's financial year.

If the EU did not extend the official payment window, Britain would be fined for every day of the delayed payments, he said.

The EDP has also reported that Europe would impose harsh financial penalties because of the incompetence of the Rural Payments Agency. The latest figures, which were provided to the farming unions, showed that about £500m has been paid - an increase of about £75m on the previous week.

The National Farmers' Union has calculated that about £100m is being paid each week, which will leave millions outstanding by June 30. The EDP revealed on March 30 that taxpayers would be penalised for the late payments and the fines could run into millions of pounds.

Yesterday, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett was promoted to the Foreign Office after presiding at Defra since the department was created in 2001. David Milliband, MPfor South Shields, and elected to Westminster in 2001, takes over her post.

Nicola Currie, CLA eastern region director, said that the practical difficulties created by adherence to the May 15 deadline have been explained by the CLA to the Minister and the RPA.

The CLA, NFU and the TFA have written to Farm Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel asking for the penalties to be waived.

"Having made a complete mess of administering the 2005 scheme, Defra and the RPA now seem hell bent on extending the industry's suffering into the 2006 scheme, penalising farmers further for RPA administrative incompetence," said Mrs Currie.

A total of 29pc of England's claims have been paid, while Ireland has achieved 98pc, Austria 100pc and Denmark 98pc.

An additional £100,000 is being made available to organisations which help farmers deal with stress, Defra has announced.

The RPA's regional office at Unit 2, The Oaks, Fordham Road, Newmarket. Telephone 01638 564364. Opening hours: Monday: Friday 8am to 5pm, Saturday, May 13: 8 to 6pm. Sunday, May 14: 8.30am to 6pm.

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