19th Jun


TFA Media Release – MR19/22 – Finally, Some Good News on Agri-Environment Payments

Finally, Some Good News on Agri-Environment Payments

The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has welcomed the news that participants in both the Environmental Stewardship and Countryside Stewardship schemes should expect to receive their long overdue payments next month.

The TFA has branded the administration of the Stewardship schemes as “shambolic” and had been lobbying for outstanding payments, which in some cases date back to 2015, to be made without delay.  The cash flows of many tenanted farm businesses have been placed under tremendous pressure due to these delays.

One TFA member, Keith Siddorn, recently spoke of his loss of faith in the system.  He said, “The delays I have experienced span 4 years, and this has ultimately led to me losing interest in farming altogether.

We make plans and invest up front in schemes to improve the environment and welfare of food production.  We keep our side of the agreements, yet bureaucracy and poor communication within the agencies have led to immense stress as delays to what they owe us roll on,” said Keith.

When asked what it would mean to receive his outstanding payments, an emotional Keith, said: “It would be a great weight off my shoulders, years of chasing what is truly owed to me has taken its toll and receiving what is due to me would be a great stress relief.”

TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said “We have been pressing the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) on this for some time.  Things came to a head in a meeting with the RPA’s Chief Executive, Paul Caldwell, last month also attended by the CLA.  At that time the RPA said it was not able to commit to when individuals might expect to receive payments.  We were told that further internal discussions were necessary, and they were working on solutions”.

“We said the ‘jam tomorrow’ response was not appropriate, and that the Government needed to resolve its internal difficulties to make the overdue payments.  Scheme participants had met their side of the bargain and they expected the Government to do the same, despite internal difficulties.  Farmers cannot rely on the same excuse if they were found to have been in breach of their commitments,” said Mr Dunn.

“It is good that in less than a month the RPA has responded positively to this challenge.  We must now work constructively to ensure that the remaining years of Environmental and Countryside Stewardship run smoothly and that in the development of the ELMS concept, lessons are learnt from the mistakes that have been made,” said Mr Dunn.

“There is more work to be done to re-establish confidence in agri-environment schemes particularly as we move into the proposed Environmental Management Schemes (ELMS) in the context of the 25-year Plan for the Environment.  The poor performance of the RPA has dented enthusiasm to participate in new schemes.  Making the outstanding payments now will go a long way towards the restoration of some trust amongst the farming community,” said Mr Dunn.

“ELMS must proceed on a more sustainable basis.  The TFA believes that the tried and tested ways of working through the Environmentally Sensitive Areas schemes of the 1980s and 1990s should be looked at again.  Local priorities, local accountability and trusted project officers able to offer advice and with the flexibility to make pragmatic decisions against scheme criteria are what is needed.  Not large-scale IT projects that lead to more process driven schemes with little interface at the coalface,” said Mr Dunn.

Ref:  MR19/22                                                               Date: 19 June 2019


Notes for Editors:

For further information contact George Dunn on 07721 998961 or Julia Meadows on 0118 930 6130 or 07887 777157.

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