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Farmers leaders to meet RPA boss

[Wednesday 29 March 2006]

As farmers across the Yorkshire Dales continue the wait for their much delayed subsidy payments, industry leaders are demanding emergency measures to speed up the process.

A crucial face to face meeting is set for today between the new head of the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) and leaders of the National Farmers Union (NFU), the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA).

Farmers still waiting as criticism mounts on RPA
Farmers still waiting as criticism mounts on RPA

It is now two weeks since Mark Addison replaced the sacked Johnston McNeill as Chief Executive of the beleaguered countryside Quango and farmers seem no nearer to receiving their entitlements under the new Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

Government Ministers had hoped that the bulk of payment cheques would be landing on doormats by the end of March; yet, despite being a year behind the original forecast, this too now appears like wishful thinking.

In a statement made ahead of today's meeting, the NFU said:

"We regard it as vitally important that the RPA is honest with the farming community about how and when their payments are likely to be delivered, so that farmers can manage their businesses so as to sustain the least possible damage during this very difficult period."

Leaders of the three organisations will be demanding the RPA and Defra now offer details of a clear programme of activity, details of the revised payment process and a realistic timetable for payments to be completed.

The meeting comes as one of the region's MP's has added her voice to the torrent of criticism currently facing the RPA and pushed the issue to a debate in the House of Commons.

Anne McIntosh represents the Vale of York and parts of the Northern Dales; she said: "This body is the worst possible body to have being chosen, it's bureaucratic, it's based in reading and the officials clearly do not have an understanding of faming and farm practices.

"I think the fact that the Secretary of State has removed the head of the Rural [Farm] Payments Agency shows that she has lost confidence."

The Agency may have lost its former boss, but Questions are now being asked as to whether ministerial heads will roll over the RPA debacle. The NFU insists its current focus is simply to ensure that farmers get what they are owed. The organisation's statement says:

"In that context, demands for Ministerial resignations - however justified they may appear - could be a distraction and might even slow the process.

"However, we are determined that those who are responsible for this debacle should ultimately be called to account."

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