The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has paid just under 98% of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) claims in December despite the challenges caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Payments worth a total of over £1.77bn were made during December to around 82,500 eligible claimants, making it the best performance since the scheme opened in 2015.
The RPA also brought forward more full Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) payments in December, with just under 68% of eligible CS revenue and just over 57% of ES claims paid, totalling £67 million. There was also an increase in the number of CS 2021 agreements issued with over 63% of applicants receiving their offers by the end of the year.
RPA chief executive, Paul Caldwell, said: they were pleased to have been able to show year on year improvements: “It has been a difficult year for many and I am pleased that we have shown our commitment to agricultural and rural communities, and to those that have kept the nation fed during such challenging times.”
In response to the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak the RPA made the decision to extend the window to submit applications for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and make a claim for Countryside Stewardship (CS), Environmental Stewardship (ES) and woodland legacy revenue payments by one month, giving farmers and their agents an extra month to submit applications and claims, helping them to avoid penalties for late applications.
Through the launch of the third round of the popular Countryside Productivity Small Grants scheme worth £25m, the RPA helped rural businesses invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure to boost productivity and deliver significant environmental benefits.
An updated Countryside Stewardship scheme is to due to open to applications for 2022 agreements in early February 2021, which will include a simplification of the administration of the scheme, making it easier for more people to take part whilst it remains open to new applications for the first few years of the agricultural transition period.