NFU president Meurig Raymond has voiced his anger at the ’unacceptable’ performance in delivering Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments in England and Wales, as he opened the NFU’s conference in Birmingham.
He pointed out 16,000 farmers in England were still waiting for their BPS payment, with farmers with commons grazing rights ’yet to receive a penny’.
"In this market thousands of farm businesses and those supplying farmers rely on BPS to help pay their bills, their rents or their mortgages," he told 1,400 delegates gathered in Birmingham for the two-day event.
Defra and the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) have ’consistently refused’ to listen to the NFU’s pleas for part payments, ’leaving many without a clue as to when they would receive their payment, he said.
"You cannot run a business like that," he said, referencing his comments to Defra Secretary Liz Truss, due to follow him onto the conference platform.
"Of course we have heard all the excuses for poor performance. I’m not going to rehearse them here.
"For me, it’s simple Secretary of State. This can’t go on. In 2016 the system has to work. And it’s got to work well."
In Wales, where the BPS scheme is ’hugely divisive’, one in six farmers had still not been paid, he added.
Too see Mrs Truss’ response, including her assurance ’almost all’ claims will be paid by the end of March click here
Mr Raymond also criticised the ’bureaucratic mess’ of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (CSS), which he said had left farmers feeling ’let down and disillusioned’.
"I want to see schemes that encourage and inspire them to enhance the environment... not one that turns them away, depressed with the complexity and form-filling."
He also called for further roll out of the badger cull. He said: "So let us see wider roll out and let’s see it this year across wide swathes of our infected areas."
Mr Raymond, who highlighted low commodity prices, the ’devastating impact’ of recent weather on farms and ongoing bovine TB problems, acknowledged at one point his speech had been ’one of almost unrelenting gloom’.
But he insisted farming’s longer-term prospects were ’much brighter’.