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RPA announces 'advance' bridging loans in lieu of late BPS payments

Farmers have lashed out at Defra after it announced ‘advance’ bridging payments for Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) which were due last year.

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RPA announces 'advance' bridging loans in lieu of late BPS payments

A number of those speaking to Farmers Guardian said they were owed thousands of pounds and in some cases, had been promised payments would have arrived by March 31, 2019 at the very latest.

 

Lindsay Higgins, who farms arable and sheep on the Shropshire/Wales border, said she had suffered delays with both CS and BPS.

 

Mrs Higgins said: “People moan about getting paid once a month but I say try being paid once a year, waiting another three months and even then not knowing when it is going to arrive.

 

“What makes it worse is that I have been passed round various different offices who cannot or do not want to help me.”

 

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) said eligible claimants still waiting would receive a payment worth 75 per cent of the estimated value of their claim from April 12.

 

Jenny Dunstan, who runs a beef unit in Cornwall, said: “We were originally told our full 2018 CS monies would be paid by November 2018. So how can a part payment in 2019 claim to be an advance payment?”

 

The NFU said while the cash injection would provide ‘much-needed relief’ for businesses, there was about 4,000 farmers who had still not received ELS or HLS payments from 2017.


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NFU deputy president Guy Smith said: "This is simply unacceptable for the thousands of farmers who have delivered their side of the contract only to be left still waiting for their payment from the Government, and who may be facing considerable knock-on effects for their businesses and families as a result.

 

"The danger now is that delayed 2017 payments could have further effects on the delivery of already delayed 2018 payments."

An RPA spokesperson said: “We understand how important these payments are to farmers and land managers, which is why we are focused on getting money into bank accounts as soon as possible.

 

“We took on responsibility of CS in October 2018 and acknowledge that performance on stewardship schemes has not been good enough.

 

"We are working to simplify the administration of the scheme as far as possible under the EU system, including streamlining processes, making changes to IT systems and boosting our workforce to speed up processing.”

 

The RPA has paid 99 per cent of BPS 2018 claims and 95 per cent of 2018 CS payments, which it said was a ’considerable improvement’ on previous years.

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