Farming News - Farmers remain dissatisfied with the RPA’s performance,report finds

Farmers remain dissatisfied with the RPA’s performance,report finds

15 May 2018
Frontdesk / Finance

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A House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has concluded that the RPA is failing in its core duties and raises concerns about its capability to deliver on new responsibilities demands of Brexit.  

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee is launching its report, Performance of the Rural Payments Agency.  The inquiry focused on the Rural Payments Agency, which administers Defra subsidies to UK farmers.

The report found that the RPA is failing on multiple levels, causing significant difficulties throughout the UK. The Committee is concerned that the RPA will be unable to effectively deliver the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship scheme, and that it is not capable of rising to its post-Brexit challenges.

The report is released as the deadline for current BPS 2018 application submissions without penalty is midnight tonight; however farmers can still make certain changes without penalty until 31st May.

The Committee findings seem to be further justified as the Rural Payments helpline was down for more than two hours last night on the eve of the deadline for BPS 2018 applications.

The Committee has recommended that the Government:

Neil Parish, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, said:

“The farming industry relies on EU support for financial stability, and on the RPA to distribute subsidies on time. It is crucial that our farmers can rely on consistent and accurate payments.

“The RPA is failing on multiple levels, which is causing significant harm to farmers across the country. It is simply not good enough that over 3,000 farmers had not been paid by March 2018. We have real concerns that the RPA is incapable of providing timely support payments in the pre and post-Brexit world. 

“Substantial improvements across the organisation are needed to address this. The RPA should set itself more stretching targets, set out a clear strategy for how it will improve handling of complaints, and detail how it will properly deliver the Countryside and Environmental Stewardship schemes.”

The report concludes:

  • It is unacceptable that over 3,000 farmers had not been paid by March 2018.
  • Communications with farmers and the complaints handling service remain poor. There are also widespread concerns over errors from recent mapping updates and inaccurate payments.
  • The RPA’s role in delivering the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes is concerning given that it places an existing burden on an organisation that appears unable to manage its current duties.
  • Changes to the way farmers will be paid once the UK leaves the EU present still further challenges.

The report recommends:

  • The RPA should set more stretching targets to encourage improved performance for the 2018 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS). The Agency should aim to make 98 percent of payments by the end of March each year.
  • We call on the RPA to set out a clear strategy detailing how it will improve communications and complaints handling.
  • The RPA should publish an ambitious set of key performance indicators for delivering the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship schemes.