To say the phones have been ringing off the hook at Farmers Guardian since last Friday’s appeal for people with Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) issues to get in touch would be an understatement.
Chief reporter Abi Kay has fielded calls from farmers across the country, some of whom have been very distressed.
Our front page story serves to highlight that behind the positive statistics there are real people facing real problems, and a failure to pay them on time has only served to exacerbate the challenges they face. On the whole, the Rural Payment Agency’s (RPA) performance on BPS has been positive, but there are always those who fall through the cracks.
Or do they? Is it simple mistakes that are preventing some from being paid or more systemic issues within the payment network, as farmers speaking to FG this week have suggested? It does seem there are patterns emerging when it comes to the type of farmer not getting the cash they need.
It also shows that while we have a Government advocating an end to direct payments post-Brexit and a new era in which farmers will supposedly survive on what the market provides, the reality is many still need the boost which comes from direct support cash. Until the market functions properly, many would argue that support needs to stay in place.
The hardship faced by those waiting for their payments also highlights the double standards of Government bodies which are not penalised for late payment, even though farmers not submitting tax returns would be immediately hit with fines. The only hope is these mistakes do not become more common after we have embarked on a new payments system outside the Common Agricultural Policy.
There is no doubt we are not in the parlous state we once were with payments, but as the callers to FG testify, the statistics and controlled messages from Government do not always tell the whole story.