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From the editor: IT problems are putting farming livelihoods at stake

By Olivia Midgley

 

Computers may be brilliant when they work, but they can also be the cause of hair-pulling frustration when they do not.

Computers may be brilliant when they work, but they can also be the cause of hair-pulling frustration when they do not. And as clever as they can be when they operate without a hitch, human intervention can easily bring the whole thing tumbling down, as demonstrated by the cyber-attack on the NHS IT systems last week.

 

While it was not a cyber-attack on Holyrood’s computers which sent the industry into a tailspin leading to Ministers being forced to issue loans to keep businesses ticking over, the building of the Scottish payments computer system was, essentially, flawed. How could those programmers have got it so wrong? Or were politicians’ demands just too complicated to deliver on?

 

When you are spending £180 million, you expect it to be right. Livelihoods are depending on it. And not just farmers’. Auxiliary industries – contractors and feed merchants to name just two – are all hit when this all-important cash injection goes AWOL.

 

As farmer Huw Davies told us, late Glastir payments totalling £25,000 have meant he has been unable to pay his contractor’s bill. Sadly, he will not be alone. While many firms will wait patiently knowing this money will turn up eventually, goodwill can only last so long.

 

When it seems those sat in Edinburgh, Cardiff and London are intentionally holding information back or not communicating effectively – and in some cases, not at all – is it any wonder farmers are becoming incensed? Will this frustration translate to fewer people working with agri-environment schemes in the future?

 

Let us hope Brexit provides the opportunity to overhaul these systems and simplify these vital payment runs, not only for the benefit of farmers, but for the benefit of the entire sector.

 

And finally... The excitement and anticipation as show season gets underway is palpable. We kick off our in-depth shows coverage with Balmoral and Nottinghamshire County.

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