For some farmers to be still waiting for Environmental Stewardship payments that are a number of years old is unacceptable. It also points towards double standards within Government agencies about adhering to new protocol and procedure.
Farmer Paul Temple is right to allude to this in his objection to the delay. The Government is quite happy to push farmers towards doing their VAT returns online from this April for those with a turnover of more than £85,000, and while there will be some leniency in how strictly it is applied, that understanding is unlikely to stretch several years down the line.
Yet when it comes to outstanding environmental scheme cash, farmers are meant to just wait. Not only will that money quite often be for work foregone and leave serious holes in some budgets, it is the hypocrisy that will grate on many.
There are also wider implications as the support regime moves, at some stage, to a new set of criteria outside of the EU. There can not be many farmers who have confidence in the administration of the current schemes, let alone believe there will be enough aptitude on hand within the civil service to build a new scheme which implements public money for public goods.
Another major stumbling block is the fact such delays erode confidence and farmers’ desire to be part of them. With some already shunning the potential for extra income environmental schemes can provide because they do not wish to deal with the added bureaucracy, such delays do nothing to boost their appeal.
In order to secure buy-in for future iterations of the scheme, Government needs to be showing it can operate efficiently in the current benign regulatory environment, never mind one with a whole new set of rules to implement.
The track record of Government IT systems over the past decade and beyond has been woeful and the Tenant Farmers’ Association is right to say this latest problem needs to be quickly resolved.