The NFU has said Defra Secretary Michael Gove’s pledge to get bridging payments to farmers still waiting for their 2018 Countryside Stewardship (CS) cash in early April does not address its demands.
Mr Gove told NFU conference he would make bridging payments worth between £24 and 28 million in early April to meet his target of getting money to 95 per cent of CS 2018 customers by March 31.
He also said he expected to pay 95 per cent of CS final payments by the end of July 2019, and promised to move to making full CS payments straight away in order to bring down processing times and speed up completion claims by a month.
But NFU deputy president Guy Smith told Farmers Guardian the move did not address the union’s demands, because the most pressing issue is non-payment of the final part of ELS/HLS 2017.
“It is outrageous there are so many people still waiting and all we know is they will get paid by July,” he said.
“That is a full year after the time anyone joining the scheme could have thought they would be paid by.
“At a time when the Government is fleshing out ideas about a new suite of environmental land management schemes which will have infinitely more money, they need to keep their eye on farmers’ confidence in their ability to deliver them.
“They need to learn from their mistakes and make sure they do not over complicate future schemes.”
The Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) also gave a lukewarm reception to the announcement, saying Mr Gove needed to commit to making bridging payments for all schemes, starting with those who have received no BPS or agri-environment cash.
On Environmental Stewardship (ES), Mr Gove said the focus was to make operational improvements, and 95 per cent of ES 2017 final payments are expected to be completed by the end of July.
He went on to suggest the payment process should become more efficient when all agreements are handled by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).