ENGLAND'S three leading farming organisations had a top-level meeting with Government yesterday over the long-running row about delayed farm payments - and were able top report considerable progress.
But they added that there were still grave worries about the number of wrongly allocated payments - some of which have been delayed since 2005 - and also the legal standing of farmers who work common land, many of whom are based in the northern uplands of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.
In the North, we are particularly disappointed over the lack of progress
Douglas Chalmers - CLA
Representatives of the National Farmers' Union, the Country Land and Business Association and the Tenant Farmers' Association met Lord Rooker, the Defra minister who has been charged with sorting out the chaos in the Single Farm Payment scheme left by former Secretary of State Margaret Beckett.
They were told that 96% of the outstanding 2006 payments should be made by the end of this month, a matter of huge relief for hundreds of farmers who have been driven to the edge of bankruptcy because of delays by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).
However, the three organisations issued a joint statement deploring the "large backlog" of disputed payments going back two years - and demanded that the 2007 payments, officially due now, should at least be paid by the end of this year.
Support payments to farmers who work common land are lost in a red-tape maze because their rights to do so can go back centuries and are sometimes a matter of legal dispute.
After the meeting, Douglas Chalmers, Director of CLA North, commented: "In the North, we are particularly disappointed over the lack of progress on the commons problem.
"Because the RPA are using an old Commons Register, farmers who have grazed commons for many years are facing hardship and future uncertainty. Resolving who is eligible to receive Single Farm Payment and Hill Farm Allowance on commons has now become an urgent task."