The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has now paid almost 99% of eligible farmers under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
The latest figures from the RPA show that BPS payments worth £1.76bn were made to farmers by February 29, which is 1.4% more customers than were paid by the end of February 2020 compared with the same time the previous year.
By February 29, over £150m was paid out to farmers through the Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Environmental Stewardship (ES) schemes – more than two and a half times the value in the previous year.
However, a quarter of ES payments and two-thirds of CS payments are still waiting for payments – 77% of eligible farmers and land managers have received their full ES claim, worth £133m, while 37% of eligible CS claimants have been paid their full claim. This compared with 19.5% customers who had been paid 75% of their claim this time last year.
Final full payments for stewardship schemes have started to arrive four months earlier than last year, with customers receiving one full revenue payment for the first time as part of a wider improvement plan to deliver a better service to customers, the RPA said. Claimants should expect to receive their full payments by the end of the payment window in June 2020.
RPA Chief Executive Paul Caldwell said: “We fully understand how important it is to farmers and land managers that they receive prompt payments in full.
“That is why as part of our continuous work to improve these schemes, we are making Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship payments to farmers in full this year, meaning more farmers receive their total payment earlier in the window.
“We are working tirelessly to ensure remaining payments are made as quickly as possible.”
Information on current year schemes
The application window for this year’s simplified Countryside Stewardship scheme is currently open and farmers and land managers with an ES or CS agreement expiring this year can sign up now for a new agreement to start in 2021.
The government is urging farmers who are new to stewardship, or who have an expiring agreement, to enter into a new CS agreement so they can continue delivering benefits on their land, making a difference to the environment now by joining an improving and expanding scheme.
Those who sign up to CS who wish to enter the new Environmental Land Management Scheme will be able to leave their agreements at agreed exit points, without penalty.
The application window for BPS 2020 will open in March and the RPA encourages all claimants to submit their applications as soon as they are able to. The level of funding available for BPS Direct Payments for 2020 will be the same as for 2019, with the rates for payments to be confirmed later this year.
The claim window for customers with existing CS and ES revenue agreements will also open in March and customers are encouraged to submit their claim for 2020 payment as soon as they are able to and ahead of the May 15 deadline.
Payments are made direct to bank accounts via BACS transfer so farmers should make sure the RPA has the most up-to-date account details on the Rural Payments service.