The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has come under pressure to iron out the creases which remain with 2015 BPS payments.
With less than three months until the 2016 payment window opens, the NFU has raised concerns after its members said they did not have the confidence the RPA would deliver.
NFU vice president Guy Smith said: “Travelling round the country talking to farmers and agents, it is staggering just how many feel BPS 2015 is far from complete or resolved. 15 months on from when these claims were submitted and just three months away from the opening of the 2016 payment window, the atmosphere is best described as fraught.
“As we enter a third year of low commodity prices, cash-flow problems are becoming compounded and the impact of delayed BPS or Higher Level Stewardship (HLS)/Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) payments becomes more pronounced. This is causing real stress and serious hardship.”
The RPA announced it was on track to resolve farmers’ 2015 BPS payment queries and had all the resources to begin 2016 payments from December 1. However the NFU have urged the RPA to issue entitlement statements to inform farmers of necessary information before their BPS 2016 payments arrive.
Mr Smith said the NFU had always doubted there were only 13,500 underpayment cases to be resolved and feared there were many more the system had not picked up.
“Ultimately, there are a lot of questions,” added Mr Smith. “The RPA needs to up its game on communicating to farmers the outcomes of 2015 land-based inspections and the outcome of the payment reconciliation work and support if farmers wish to challenge the RPA’s confirmed position, so they can at least know the status of their previous claims.
“Despite our doubts over the promise that 90 per cent of 2016 payments will be made by the end of December we are determined to hold the RPA to it. If between now and the opening of the payment window in December we see any backtracking on that promise then we will call on Defra to issue bridging payments instead.”
Anyone who has a query with their BPS payment can contact the agency for investigation on 03000 200 301.