More than 95% of farmers received their 2020 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money in the first day of the payment window for recipients of the scheme. Charlotte Cunningham reports.

Despite the challenges faced by coronavirus this year, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has announced it’s on track to achieve its best-ever payment performance. Approximately £1.671bn was paid to farmers for BPS on the first day of the payment window, which runs from Dec to Jun, a further improvement on 2019 where £1.192bn was released.

In addition eligible farmers were issued Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue payments totalling £40m; and Environmental Stewardship (ES) payments totalling £60m are expected within the first few days of the window. An improvement on 2019 where no payments were released.

Those who claimed CS and ES agreements in 2020 will receive one full payment this year as part of a wider plan to deliver a better service to farmers and land managers.

This is the first year that these payments have been funded directly by the UK Government rather than by the EU.

“We’re committed to ensuring timely payments to farmers and land managers, so that rural businesses can plan for the year ahead,” says Paul Caldwell, RPA chief executive. “2020 has been a challenging year for many and I’ve been really pleased at the progress we have made which has resulted in this level of performance despite the difficulties presented by coronavirus. This is testament to the hard work of people within the agency and the measures we have taken to further simplify CS.”

Much-needed payments

Responding to the update from the RPA, NFU vice president Tom Bradshaw added: “It’s excellent that more than 95% of farmers have received their BPS payment on the first day of the payment window.

“This year has been one of the most challenging for farmers up and down the country and I would like to congratulate the RPA on getting these much-needed payments out the door.

“It’s also very encouraging that the first Countryside Stewardship scheme payments have been made, as well as payments for those in Environmental Stewardship HLS agreements.

“This is another example of the RPA demonstrating improved delivery performance, which will continue to be critical as we head towards the introduction of new schemes during the agricultural transition period.

“Of course, we must not lose sight of the 5% who have yet to receive their payment for BPS and the substantial amount of agri-environment payments RPA still need to deliver. I would urge the RPA to ensure those claimants are kept informed of progress so they can manage their cash flow appropriately and see these payments made in a timely manner.”

Stopping fraudulent activity

Claimants are also urged to remain vigilant against fraud. They should remember:

  • Your bank, police or the RPA will never ask you to reveal your online password, PIN or bank account details or ask you to make a payment over the telephone.
  • Never disclose personal information to someone you don’t know or open unknown or unexpected computer links or emails.
  • If in doubt, call the organisation back, ideally on a different telephone, using a number you are familiar with or you know to be official. You can find this on the organisation’s website, correspondence or statement. Contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 without delay for advice and to register your concern