Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
Following my announcement at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair, more than half of Welsh farm businesses received their BPS part payment (approximately 80% of the individual farm businesses total payment) during the first week of the 7 month payment window (1 Dec 2015 – 30 June 2016). I am pleased to update Members that 67% of farm businesses received their BPS part payment during December 2015.
We have now paid 70% of our farm businesses, this meets our published target and compares very favourably with the position in England and Scotland. Rural Payments Wales remains on track to pay the vast majority of farmers in the coming weeks. More complex cases will take longer to pay. Farmers who have not been paid by the end of January will be written to in order to update them on progress, and advise them when they are likely to receive payment. The final instalments (20%) will be made in April in line with our published target.
Given the complexities of implementing the new scheme, with the challenges we faced along the way, I am sure that Members will agree that this is an excellent achievement.
To help us maintain this GB-leading performance I must ask that farmers continue to resist the temptation to phone the Customer Contact Centre chasing payment, as this will divert staff from processing claims and therefore delay payments. That is not something that anybody - including the farmers involved - would wish to see happen. If we need information from farmers to process their claim we will get in touch swiftly. However, if Members are aware of constituents that are genuinely suffering significant financial hardship, please bring these cases to my attention.
I am pleased to inform you that, in order to help with the handling of farmer queries and concerns regarding the mapping of trees and other ineligible areas, I have introduced a simplified stage 1 appeal process. Farmers simply need to message Rural Payments Wales online, or write/email with their CRN, Trading Title and the Field references, and staff will use this information to carry out an urgent check and then respond quickly to the query.
I trust that farmers will use this facility sensibly and proportionately, and not divert our staff unnecessarily from the important business of making the remaining part-payments.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the very many people involved, including the Farmers Union of Wales, National Farmers Union Cymru, Country Land and Business Association Cymru, agents and others, who have worked tirelessly and in partnership with my own officials during the SAF period and beyond to deliver such a strong outcome in the first and somewhat challenging year of the completely new Basic Payment Scheme.