An NFU survey shows that overdue Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) funds are still causing a problem to some of its members, while the complexity of the application forms is also causing claimants unnecessary expense.

The survey questioned 364 members, chosen at random, last month.  It found that 14% of the farmers still have outstanding problems from 2015 and 2016, with 43% of the sample reporting that previous year issues had affected their 2017 scheme claims.

While the NFU can’t quantify the overall amount outstanding, it says some members are still owed sums in excess of £10,000 or some 20% of their claim for a particular scheme year. “This continues to have a significant impact on cashflow and business planning, at a time of the year when expenditure on many farms exceeds income,” it notes.

“While we can see there is progress being made by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), it’s clear that an unacceptably large proportion of farmers are still haunted by problems yet to be rectified,” notes NFU vice president Guy Smith. “We are still hearing from too many members who are becoming understandably angry about delays, errors and underpayments. It’s understandable how these claimants simply do not see or benefit from the positive steps our survey shows the RPA has made.”

The Union’s survey also measured an increase to 55% (43% in 2016) in the number of claimants needing outside assistance to complete the BPS application. “The rise in claimants seeking professional assistance with their applications is alarming,” states Mr Smith. “We’ve always maintained that BPS should not be beyond the average farmer – it should be an accessible system for all. Over half saying they needed assistance shows that cost is being loaded into the industry through lack of clarity and a perception that the process is difficult.

“This survey work will arm us in our talks with the RPA to shape the next BPS year, to ensure that the application system is fit for purpose and that the delivery of BPS monies is accurate and timely.”