REPRESENTATIVES of a leading farming organisation have been spelling out the chaos and mismanagement that led to Government delays in making single farm payments (SPS).
SPS delays hit hill farms hard
A marathon session of the National Audit Office Inquiry into the fiasco saw the chairmen of several National Farmers Union (NFU) Boards provide damning evidence of how the Government's handling of the crisis has resulted in devastating consequences for farmers.
Livestock Board Chairman, Thomas Binns said that the crisis had resulted in real hardship for farmers and stressed the importance of support payments in the livestock sector.
An NFU survey has revealed that tenants in particular were hard hit by delays given that they had found it harder to secure loans at a reasonable rate of interest and that they had fixed rental payments due.
Mr Binns said that hill farmers had been doubly hit by the lack of SPS and Hill Farm Allowance payments (HFA). He called for the link between SPS and HFA processing to be removed so that hill farmers did not face similar delays in future years.
If the RPA had done its job properly a great deal of unnecessary heartache and cost could have been
Richard Hirst - NFU
Richard Hirst, Chairman of the NFU's Horticulture Board, told the inquiry that a key problem for farmers and growers had been the complete failure of the RPA to establish entitlements within the required deadlines.
During his evidence to the inquiry Mr Hirst said: "If the RPA had done its job properly a great deal of unnecessary heartache and cost could have been avoided."
Speaking after giving his evidence to the NAO, Thomas Binns said: "The 2005 fiasco has already put 2006 payments at risk.
"What is clear, and what we stressed to the inquiry is that the Government must put in place a part payments mechanism for 2006. It is the only way that any kind of confidence in the RPA can be restored."
The National Audit Office, which is totally independent of government, is expected to submit its report on the SPS debacle to Parliament in the autumn.
The NAO's remit is to examine and report on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of public spending. It has wide ranging powers to call for documents and to require explanation from central government departments.