The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has said that DEFRA and the Welsh Government must work harder to get scheme payments out to farmers on time.
TFA National Chairman, Mark Coulman, said “Even before the country was hit by the immense problems of Covid-19, farmers, particularly in the arable sector, were facing a difficult year. The exceptionally wet conditions, prevailing during last autumn and winter, will mean that the 2020 harvest is going to be financially challenging for many farm businesses. Now, with Covid-19, other farming sectors, notably dairy and red meat producers focused on food service supply chains, are going to be under severe financial pressure. This is not a year for paying agencies to drop the ball and they must work towards making farm payments on time”.
Since the introduction of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), Stewardship and Glastir, at various times, English and Welsh Governments have struggled getting payments to farmers in a timely manner. While there have been improvements in the administration of BPS, there have been ongoing issues with both Stewardship and Glastir payments which, in many cases, continue to be made very late in the day.
“I am worried that the decision taken to move the deadline for the completion of BPS forms from 15 May to 15 June, will give paying agencies in England and Wales an excuse to delay making payments until late into the payment window, which opens on 01 December. Both DEFRA and the Welsh Government should commit to making payments either in full, or using official bridging loans, as soon as the payment window opens. It would be very unfair for those who have met the original claim deadline to be penalised with a later payment,” said Mr Coulman.
“Whilst the administration of BPS payments has generally improved, payments under agri-environment schemes have become increasingly delayed in England and Wales. There is really no excuse for this, particularly as they merely compensate farmers for work they have already done, on an income foregone, plus costs basis. Farm tenants with low levels of security, and therefore a need to maintain cash flow, particularly for paying rent, need assurances from scheme managers that payments will not be delayed,” said Mr Coulman.