FURTHER bureaucratic hold-ups in processing unpaid EU farm subsidies will have dire consequences for agricultural businesses and Monmouthshire’s rural economy, an MP has warned.
David Davies is mounting pressure on the Welsh Government to urgently release remaining payments after meeting with angry farmers facing severe cash flow problems.
Five months after the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) window opened, a number of farmers in the Monmouth area – who were all inspected by Rural Payments Wales (RPW) last year – have still not received their first instalments.
There is also concern at the slow delivery of agri-environment payments, including Glastir.
Mr Davies said the receiving of subsidies is an important factor in terms of planning cash flow, being able to meet liabilities and running asustainable and viable farming business.
“It’s the knock-on effect that people don’t realise,” he said.
“This is not money that goes into the back pockets of farmers. If they don’t get paid, someone else doesn’t get paid.
“Farmers are already finding it difficult following a tough winter. Costs have mounted as a result of record rainfall and commodity prices remain depressed, meaning cash flow is a major issue.”
Part payments were introduced by the Welsh Government last year in an effort to ensure timely delivery of the new Basic Payment Scheme. It is understood that around 97 per cent of farmers have now received their 80 per cent initial payments.
But Mr Davies said this was “scant consolation” to the three per cent of farmers who have been waiting months for any kind of payment.
“Whatever public promises the Welsh Government are making about issuing payments, there is a disproportionate number of farmers in Monmouthshire who have yet to receive a single penny.
“The situation is becoming more pressing as they are now entering the critical period of 2016 Single Application Form completion ahead of the deadline on 16 May, with many not knowing what has happened with their 2015 application.
“It’s unacceptable and there doesn’t seem to be any government urgency to sort this out. RPW cannot give any substantive reasons as to why payments are unable to be processed. The overriding feeling among farmers is that rather than not being paid, money is being withheld – although they have no idea why.”
An unlucky minority of cross-border claimants, with parcels of land in both England and Wales, are caught up in an ever more complicated “bureaucratic steeplechase”, Mr Davies added.
“The amount of red tape surrounding these EU payments is truly phenomenal, with the Rural Payment Agency (RPA) in England and RPW failing to effectively share data and blaming each other for continued delays to BPS cheques,” he said.
“Unfortunately, ministers are just administering a scheme drawn up in Brussels and they ought to be doing a better job of it than they are.”
Among those waiting is Phil Kings of Court Farm in Wonastow. He said the compounding effect caused by the late payment of subsidies are that many farmers are struggling to, or not able to pay bills.
“Several other local farmers have not been paid either and as a direct result, they are unable to settle outstanding contracting invoices which are owing to me,” he said.
“It’s a double whammy.”
Gary Yeomans, NFU Cymru Monmouthshire county chairman, said farmers’ patience is wearing thin and called on the Welsh Government to “act now”.
“I am extremely concerned that a big pocket of farmers around Monmouth have yet to receive their BPS payment,” he said.
“This is causing them severe cash flow problems and that’s having a wider impact on the local economy.
“The Welsh Government must act now and ensure the situation is brought to a speedy conclusion.”