RPA said it was on track to complete payments ‘significantly ahead’ of the June 2019 deadline.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has confirmed it paid 93.4 per cent of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims during December.
This was the best performance since the scheme started in 2015, and ahead of the 90 per cent target.
Payments during December were made to 78,787 of eligible claimants and were worth more than £1.57 billion in total.
RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell said: “We fully appreciate how critical BPS payments are to farmers and their businesses.
“We have increased efforts to pay more people as early as possible and RPA teams have now landed more than £1.5 billion into farmers’ bank accounts. I am very grateful to them for all their work so far.
“We know there is more to do and that some farmers are still waiting for payments. We have written to everyone we were not able to pay in December and will continue to keep people up-to-date.
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer welcomed the announcement but warned delayed BPS payments and continued delay on stewardship payments were causing concerns to many farmers.
He said: “This is welcome progress but those still awaiting payment are experiencing pressure on the business, and in many cases significant stress and worry.
“The rural economy is already facing an uncertain future in the lead up to Brexit and beyond so delayed BPS payments, alongside these other delays to agri-environment scheme payments are compounding and causing a real dent.
“We have previously called on the Treasury to make early and timely bridging payments and are disappointed these are not forthcoming.
“They should be made a planned feature of the administrative process for the remainder of BPS, and we will continue to press for them in order to put an end to the annual cycle of uncertainty on this issue.”
The RPA said it was on track to complete payments ‘significantly ahead’ of the June 2019 deadline.
Those claimants who have not been paid by the end of March will receive a bridging payment worth 75 per cent of the value of their claim.
The NFU called for immediate bridging payments to be provided to the 5,000 plus farmers who have yet to receive their BPS payments for 2018.
The call follows the RPA’s release of BPS 2018 payment figures which show that 93 per cent of eligible claims were paid in December.
NFU Vice President Stuart Roberts said while this is a welcome improvement from 2017 figures, and it was encouraging to hear the RPA is on track for completing payments ahead of the June deadline, the government must do more to make bridging payments available to those who do not receive their payments in December.
He said: “The delivery of BPS is clearly improving, especially considering the challenges in 2018 of updated mapping and greening rule changes, but it is by no means in perfect working order. Over 5,000 farmers and growers are still waiting for payments through no fault of their own and may not receive a penny for months.
“Timely payments are crucial for farm businesses to be able to manage their cash flow, especially after last year’s extreme weather which put extra pressure on businesses.
“For those who have yet to be paid, the government must provide immediate bridging payments to ease this pressure and we are disappointed that such financial assistance may not be provided until April.
“With regards to other BPS payment activity, we are pleased to see eligible commoners finally receiving their retrospective adjustment payments for the BPS years 2015-2017, but are still hearing reports of farmers waiting for other claim issues to be resolved that date back as far as 2015. We must see these fully resolved before the 2019 application window opens in March.”