Delay to agri-environment scheme payments "unacceptable" says NFU

A delay of up to four months for agri-environment scheme payments to farmers in England will put added pressure on farm businesses at a time when thousands are facing low farmgate prices. Natural England has told the NFU that payments, usually expected in August, will start being made to farmers in October but the majority of transactions won’t take place in November and December. This is partly due to IT failures in the spring and the extension of claim deadlines for the BPS and agri-environment scheme. The NFU understands that the delay is due to the need to cross-check BPS and agri-environment data as part of a requirement under EU regulations. Guy Smith said "The delay is completely unacceptable. At a time when markets are at their most volatile, farmgate prices are low and farm bank accounts are stretched it is vital that farmers get the money they are owed as soon as possible. Our members will need to adjust their cash flow arrangements accordingly when this does not happen. Our members expect to be treated in a consistent manner and to be paid promptly for work they have already carried out."