About 30,000 farmers in England are set to receive their 2015 Basic Payments on Tuesday (December 1), the day the payment window formally opens across the EU.
The payments represent at least 35 per cent of claimants and will help ensure the agency meets its target of delivering the majority of payments in December.
The RPA said it was also on track to meet its promise to pay the vast of majority of claimants by the end of January.
Defra Secretary Elizabeth Truss said: “My focus has always been on providing our hard-working farmers with these payments as early as possible.
"The Rural Payments Agency has worked tirelessly to process claims and I am delighted that through their dedication such a significant number of farmers will benefit from receiving their payments at the earliest possible opportunity.
“Volatile markets had made 2015 a difficult year for many of our farmers and both my and the RPA’s continued priority is to make sure the remaining payments are made as quickly as possible during the payment window.”
RPA Chief Executive Mark Grimshaw, who appears to have steered the agency back on course after a notoriously difficult BPS application process, said:
“We have been working seven days a week, to ensure we deliver in an accurate and timely manner, drawing on resources from across government, to process claims, so that full BPS payments to farmers start to be paid on the first day of the 2015 payment window.”
After considerable delays over the delivery of payments, Natural England has announced that 79 per cent of Environmental Stewardship advance payments worth over £114 m have now been made.
All advance payments expected to be delivered before Christmas as in previous years.
The moment of truth has arrived.
But after all the years of torturous EU negotiations, the bitter wrangling over national policies between politicians, farmers and campaign groups and the painfully difficult implementation processes, the picture remains unclear for many farmers across the UK and beyond.
Here we look at what UK farmers can expect once the payment window is live.
The Rural Payments Agency, which has sounded increasingly confident about reaching its targers in recent weeks, has announced today 30,000 farmers, about 35 per cent of those who claimed, will be paid on December 1.
This means RPA is on track to meet its promise to pay more than half of claimants in England before the end of December and ‘the vast of majority’ by the end of January.
While the RPA has never formally specified numbers, Mr Grimshaw has suggested about 10 per cent of the claimant population with ‘complex cases’ could still be waiting for their money in February.
These include potentially about 4,000 commons farmers, cross-border claims, probate cases, farmers who have been inspected and large ‘super-complex’ claims, such as the National Trust, RSPB and Woodland Trust.
The RPA is writing to farmers who its knows are unlikely to be paid by the end of January to help them manage their cash flow.
Wales has faced a more complex reform with its transformation to an area-based system hampered by a legal challenge, which forced it abandon its preferred regional payment model.
Instead it has opted for a stepped moved to an single area system, with a redistributive element thrown in.
The Welsh Government has also struggled with the additional mapping requirements of the new CAP.
From an early stage, the Government confirmed its intention to issue part payments in December.
Deputy Farming Minister Rebecca Evans has said she expected the majority of part-payments, worth in the region of 80 per cent of the estimated full payment value, to be made during December.
The vast majority of the remaining part-payments is expected to be made ‘early in 2016’.
She said that farmers in Wales would start to receive their BPS part-payments on December 1.
“In fact, over 50 per cent of claims have already been processed and their part-payments should be with them within the first week," she said.
The final balance is expected to be paid during April 2016.
Scotland has gone for an even more complex reform and has struggled with its new IT payments system.
The Scottish Government has been much slower to show its hand, infuriating farmers who had been demanding clarity over timings.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead finally revealed last week payments would be made in two instalments of 70 per cent and 30 per cent.
But only a quarter of Scottish farmers are expected to receive their first instalment by the end of December, with only ‘the majority’ receiving their part-payment by the end of January.
Some will not receive the first tranche until the end of March.
The balance payment of 30 per cent is to be delivered to all claimants by the end of April.
In contrast, Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill announced in mid-November DARD would make payments to 95 per cent of eligible applicants in December.
This figure will include the majority of cases selected for inspection.
The NFU reported 14 member states had taken up the option to make advance payments from mid-October, although by the end of October, only Ireland and France had started to issue payments.
Other member states are reported to be struggling with the new BPS and the performance of the UK administrations will become clearer when measured against others.
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “It is easy to overlook why these BPS payments are important for so many rural businesses. The severity of cashflow crisis across all farm sectors is having major impacts on farmers’ suppliers, contractors and the wider rural economy, not just farm businesses,” he said.
“So confirmation that thirty thousand applicants will receive BPS payment next week is undoubtedly good news for these fortunate applicants.
"And we welcome news that the RPA is on track to pay the 'majority' by end of December and ‘vast majority’ by the end of January.
“However, Defra and the RPA must be under no illusion how many farm businesses will be desperate to receive their payments as soon as possible.
“Defra and the RPA must step up efforts to raise the number of claims paid by end of December and January as this is essential for farm businesses and the wider rural economy.”
NFU Vice President Guy Smith added: “When you consider many of us thought last March that we were in danger of facing another 2006 style meltdown when most farmers were still waiting for payments six months after the payment window opened then we have to congratulate the RPA for pulling some of this out of the fire.
Defra was correct to listen to us at the time and put extra resource into the RPA. I'm mindful the situation in England is not nearly as bad as it appears to be in Scotland.
“The alarm bells must be ringing loud for those farm businesses which will be notified that they are unlikely to receive payments before February.
"So it is vital for Defra and the RPA to give as many resources as possible now to deal with difficult cases, including looking at all options including partial payments."
CLA President Ross Murray said: “It is reassuring that the Rural Payments Agency appears to be on course to meet its target to pay more than half of BPS recipients in December.
"We will be working closely with the RPA over the coming weeks to try and ensure that that they pay as many people as possible this year and that everyone is paid by the end of January.
"We are also asking for the RPA to provide regular updates so that those waiting for their payment can have confidence that they will be paid on time.”