MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee have opened an inquiry into the work of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) because payments have ‘slowed down’.
RPA chief executive Paul Caldwell has been summoned to appear before the committee on March 28 to explain why performance since the start of 2018 appears to have dropped off.
News of the inquiry came as Farmers Guardian conducted its own investigation into the delivery of BPS payments – the results of which will be revealed later this week.
Chair of the committee Neil Parish MP said: “The committee will be looking into historic payments with the RPA which are still outstanding and claims which have still not been processed.
“Although it was good to see the RPA process claims in the run up to Christmas, it looks as though payments to farmers have slowed down again since the beginning of this year.
“This suggests to me there could be some administration issues which the RPA needs to look at to make sure farmers are paid on time.”
As of the end of February, BPS payments worth £1.59 billion had been made to more than 81,000 farmers in England.
The RPA will provide bridging payments to those still waiting for their cash at the end of March.
Stuart Roberts, vice president of the NFU, said poor communication with farmers who have not received their payments was the ‘biggest problem’.
“This makes cash flow planning impossible and puts farmers in a very difficult position with their banks and suppliers, who rightly expect clear communication themselves from their farming customers”, he added.
“It is vital farmers are contacted in the event of payment issues or delays. Some may have been inspected remotely and simply do not know they are impacted.
“The RPA needs to appreciate saying nothing is never the answer in this sort of situation. This was something highlighted at the recent NFU council meeting and is an issue I will be pressing hard when I see the RPA chief executive next month.”