The NFU has called on the Government to provide a BPS 2020 ‘payment guarantee’ to help farmers struggling with cashflow issues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The guarantee would ensure all claimants receive either their full payment or a bridging loan worth 90 per cent of the claim value by ‘early December’ 2020.
The union has also demanded all outstanding 2019 Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship payments be released by the end of April, with Treasury funding if ordinary processing will not allow payments to be issued.
The asks were outlined by NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw in a letter to Farming Minister Victoria Prentis.
Mr Bradshaw said: “The Government has taken unprecedented action to protect businesses from financial trauma, but for many farmers these measures either increase the level of debt or are targeted to enterprises they do not have on farm.
“For thousands of farmers, there is an immediate step Defra could take to assist with cashflow – releasing outstanding 2019 agri-environment and BPS payments and committing to paying future payments promptly.”
In his letter to the Minister, Mr Bradshaw went on to request a penalty-free BPS amendment period to June 15 to help farmers who have had difficulty accessing detailed guidance due to social distancing restrictions.
He also called on Defra to delay the agricultural transition period, due to begin in 2021, until December 2022 to allow farmers more time to prepare for the BPS phase out.
In March, a department spokesman admitted to Farmers Guardian for the first time that the Government was discussing putting the plans on pause.
Mr Bradshaw said: “Coupled with the immediate disruptive impact of Covid-19 on farmers’ capability to prepare for change, we believe Defra should delay the agricultural transition period to December 2022 at the earliest.
“We do not want to see a repeat of previous failings when it comes to introducing new support schemes because of a desire to stick to what we see as an increasingly unrealistic original timeline.”