Nick Smith MP has today written to Mark Grimshaw, Chief Executive at the Rural Payments Agency, to challenge him on the delays of vital payments to farmers.
With news that farmers in England are still waiting on £1bn of basic payments, the Shadow Farming Minister has asked Mr Grimshaw how many of the 44,000 farmers affected face further costly delays.
Mr Smith pressed the Government in December over the failures of the department’s IT system that saw the project go £60m over budget and force farmers back to a pen and paper application.
Mr Smith said: “Farmers are getting a really hard time at the moment with the weather conditions and reductions in farm gate prices.
“The Government’s administration of RPA must be top notch at this time to ensure they get a fair deal.
“Following the shambles of the RPA’s IT system failure, farmers need to have confidence their payments will be received so they don’t have cash flow problems early in the New Year.”
Please find the contents of the letter below.
I have received concerns from farmers about the delivery of the basic payments from the Rural Payments Agency.
The concerns that have been expressed to me centre around the fact that although the target of half of farmers being paid by December has been hit, it seems less than a third of the money has been paid out and 49% of farmers have yet to receive anything.
In your press release today dated 4th January, Liz Truss is quoted as saying “The RPA is on track to pay the vast majority of claimants by the end of January.” Can you please be more specific? Is your target 85%, 90%, 95%? This would greatly help the farmers who have still not received their payment.
You say the RPA will provide an update to those claimants unlikely to be paid by the end of January. What is your estimate of the amount of the global figure held by the RPA still to be paid out to farmers after the end of January?
I have also been approached by one farmer who is concerned that if cases are delayed, there is no transparency as to what is causing the problem so claimants can help rectify any reason for a delay. What advice does the RPA have to farmers who might want to engage in a proactive way to try and support the agency to ensure their payments are made sooner rather than later?
The NFU have asked whether or not a part payment can be made to those who are going to miss the deadline. Can you update me on the latest thinking on this request?
I would be grateful for a quick response as this is a live issue affecting many farmers across the country at this time.
Nick Smith MP
Shadow Minister for Food, Farming and Rural Affairs