Following the announcement that the Rural Payment Agency (RPA) will be issuing bridging payments worth 75% of claims to those agreement holders with 2019 outstanding payments, and extending the application windows for BPS and Countryside Stewardship will be extended by one month until 15 June, NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw [pictured]has welcomed the flexibility being applied while emphasising concerns that the extension could have a knock on effect on payment delivery.
The bridging payments will help to ensure farmers are properly paid and rewarded for their efforts and financial costs in protecting and enhancing the environment through Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes.
The move from the RPA, Bradshaw says, will help provide much-needed relief for those farming businesses waiting on outstanding Environmental Stewardship (ES and CS) payments from 2019, and that it comes at a critical time in the farming year.
He said: “Those with outstanding 2019 payments are having to fund their 2020 environmental work without having been paid anything yet for the invaluable work that was delivered throughout 2019. The move the RPA made to make one payment of 100% of the value last year, instead of the previous advance followed by a final payment, has proved challenging for all those still waiting for any monies as we approach May.
“While bridging payments will help ease cash flow issues in the short term, to allow farmers to plan for the long term we are urging the RPA to commit to making payments for 2020 on the 1st December this year. In light of the Covid-19 challenges and challenging weather conditions we have seen, this would help ease some concerns for the industry going forward.”
In response to the application windows for BPS and Countryside Stewardship being extended by one month until 15 June, Bradshaw adds that he is pleased to see action from the RPA in its being flexible, but raises concern over he impact extending the claim form deadline could have on the processing of payments.
He said: “The next step will be for the RPA to find a mechanism to ensure timely 2020 payments and that this extension does not result in delays. I encourage everyone who is still able to submit claim forms by the original deadline of 15 May to do so at the earliest opportunity to reduce processing delays.
“The NFU has already urged the RPA for timely BPS and agri-environment payments to be delivered as early as possible in December this year in light of the issues posed by COVID-19 and the extreme autumn and winter weather.
“It is imperative that farmers’ expectations are met and the new claim form deadline does not prevent the RPA from delivering payments in a timely manner to avoid further unnecessary cashflow pressure.”