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Country News - 2005

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Ten days left for CAP hardship grants

Tuesday 12 April 2005

HILL FARMERS struggling with the complexities of the CAP singly payment scheme still have ten days to apply for hardship grants, thanks to pressure on Defra from the NFU and the CLA.

The deadline for hardship claims had been set at February 28 but alleged chaos at the new Rural Payments Agency meant that many farmers were unable to make contact by phone and hundreds of others were not even aware of the deadline.

Last week, after angry protests from farming and landowners' bodies, the agency agreed to bring in a new deadline of April 22 - ten days from today. Says Douglas Chalmers, Northern Director of the Country Land and Business Association:

"The new scheme is very complex, and dealing with it for the first time has meant some farmers have missed Defra's previous February 28 deadline or are still be unaware that they could qualify for a higher payment.

"In certain cases of hardship or exceptional and unforeseeable events, production levels may have been affected during the reference period between 2000 and 2002.

"Not only can applications cover circumstances outside the farmer's control, which may include death, natural disasters or laying of pipelines, but can also include where a farmer has been participating in EU funded agri-environment schemes that may have reduced farm output during those years.

"This is an unexpected, extra chance for the growing number of our members having to deal with the large number of ever-changing deadlines, form-filling requirements and red tape generated by the current CAP reform.

"Hardly surprisingly, Defra and the Rural Payments Agency also appear to be finding it hard to cope with the volume of enquiries from concerned farmers."


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