Give the farmers their money now or pay them interest for your bungling, MEP tells Beckett

Farmers have waited a year, now they must wait another six months to receive Single Farm Payments

Brussels, 25 January 2006 -- English farmers who have already waited over a year for their Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments may well not receive their payments until the final legal deadline of 30th June, even though Welsh and Scottish farmers received their funds before Christmas, Sir Robert Atkins, Conservative MEP in the European Parliament, said today after Margaret Beckett spoke on the issue in the Parliament’s agriculture committee.

Farmers had originally been promised a payment date of February - which would already constitute a year-long wait for their money - but the Secretary of State refused to say when her department would finally give farmers their dues.

The single farm payment is vital to the survival of many British farmers but the Rural Payments Agency has so far been unable to cope with a regional payments structure that DEFRA chose to administer the reformed CAP regime.

The single farm payment in England this year will be paid partly on an historic basis (by taking account of the number of sheep, cattle or the area of crops grown) and partly on the type of land the farmer has on his or her holding. This system of payment was entirely created by the British government.

The Rural Payments Agency has earned a reputation for not paying farmers their dues on time but its inability to cope with the excessively bureaucratic methodology set by DEFRA is its worst failing yet. Sir Robert has said that at best, farmers have been severely disadvantaged and at worst, they will go out of business. He is demanding Mrs Beckett publicly apologises to farmers and that DEFRA pays interest to English farmers for failing to get payments to them within a reasonable time.

He said:

“The British government has failed English farmers once again. Scotland, Wales and other countries in the EU have managed to pay farmers their dues with only a reasonable delay so why must British farmers find themselves once again facing bankruptcy because the government is failing to fulfil a simple responsibility?

“English farmers have been waiting a year for these payments and now they are being told to wait another five months. How many of them will go bust in the meantime?

“If any farmer were late in paying taxes, he would soon receive a reprimand from the government and have to pay interest on the money owed yet the Minister’s reaction to me today was indignant.

“The Minister should apologise immediately to all farmers and DEFRA are morally obliged to pay interest on the money owed to farmers due to their incompetence

“The new payments system the UK has brought in is overtly bureaucratic and should be reviewed immediately. It seems to have been deliberately designed so that farmers don’t understand it but now even the officials that created the monster are unable to get their heads around how it functions.”

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