Urgent action needed on farm payments

Farming unions have called for rapid partial payments to be made to avoid further cash flow chaos and anxiety to the country's farmers.The National Farmers' Union has urged government to learn from mistakes highlighted in a devastating National Audit Office (NAO) indictment of the delivery of the Single Payment Scheme.

Farming unions have called for rapid partial payments to be made to avoid further cash flow chaos and anxiety to the country's farmers.

The National Farmers' Union has urged government to learn from mistakes highlighted in a devastating National Audit Office (NAO) indictment of the delivery of the Single Payment Scheme.

The farming organisation is now urging ministers to make a decision to implement a system of partial payments for 2006 without delay.

The NAO report, estimated the failure of the Rural Payments Agency to deliver 2005 single payments efficiently, and on time, cost farmers collectively between £18.5 and £22.5m in interest charges and arrangement fees on loans and could result in an EU fine of as much as £131m.


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The cost of making the payments had escalated from Defra's first estimate of £76m to £121m by March this year, with further increases in the pipeline. The extra cost is a potent factor in the budgetary cut-backs that Defra is being forced to implement, at the expense of the rural economy.

NFU President Peter Kendall, warned ministers against making the same mistake this time around. “Everything we have heard both from Lord Rooker and the RPA's chief executive, Tony Cooper, suggests we are in danger for heading for a repeat of this year's fiasco if ministers do not learn the lessons.

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“Chief amongst them is the need for a contingency system that is ready for action and activated as soon as it becomes clear the main system cannot deliver what is needed. From where I sit, that day is fast approaching.”

Mr Kendall said: “The Germans adopted an even more complex regional scheme than we did. And yet 78pc of their payments were delivered by the end of December 2005. Why? Because on realising they could not deliver full payments early, they pressed the button on their part payment system - something this government singularly failed to do, preferring to believe the RPA's over-optimistic assurances that it could deliver in full.

“If ministers take the same 'wait and see' approach this year in the vain hope of being able to make full payments some time in the spring, we will end up in the same mess again. Ministers need to learn the lessons, bite the bullet and press the part payment button.

“With Irish and French farmers benefiting from advance payments ahead of the payment window and Scotland & Wales set to begin payments from 1 December, it looks like English farmers will be left out in the cold once again.”

In the Irish Republic, 50pc payment of claims has already started with the balance paid from December 1. The German federal states expect to make full 2006 payments by December 31.

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