Defra news for farmers and growers
Dear Farming Link reader,
Due to be very high print runs, farming link is produced and printed a number of weeks before it is distributed to you. This quarters edition (March 2006) was sent out from 13th of March. Unfortunately this means that it can’t tend in formation of the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) that has since been superseded.
The March edition of Farming Link reported that “most of the £1.6 billion of subsidies for farmers would be paid by the end of March”. In a written statement on the 16th of March, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs (Margaret Beckett) explained that the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) had advised for the first time on 14th March that it would no longer be possible to make the bulk of SPS payments by the end of the month.
This unacceptable situation was dealt with immediately by the strengthening of the leadership of the organization. An acting chief executive, Mark Addison, was appointed to replace Johnston MacNeill. Ministers received an initial report from Mr. Addison which has identified some early steps to take which should speed up payments, without losing sight of the need to manage a large sum of public money properly. These steps include:
· Focusing resources in the RPA to make the 2005 payments as fast as is legally possible;
· Prioritizing work to release the maximum value of payments, as opposed to the maximum number of individual claims, an action which will mainly benefit historic customers;
· Identifying what further steps can be taken to simplify and streamlined the payment process.
The Minister for Sustainable Farming and food (Lord Bach) and the RPA Acting Chief Executive have invited senior representatives of the industry to weekly meetings, the first of which took place on 22nd March, so that close contact can be maintained with them. They will also be engaging with the banks and other key stakeholders.
Speeding up SPS payments remains the overwhelming priority of Defra Ministers, but it is also essential that actions taken now in response to these problems are very carefully considered and sure-footed to avoid making them worse in the future. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural affairs said: “Central to the success of these steps is the team at the RPA. I am confident that with Mark Addison at the helm, we have in place the right people for the job in this next stage. Their work and commitment remains key to delivery.”