Common Land Farm Payment Delays 'Unfair And Dangerous' - Farron
South Lakeland MP Tim Farron has called on the government's Rural Payments Agency not to delay claims relating to common land, as significant numbers of South Lakeland farmers are still waiting to receive their payments.
Many South Lakes farmers have been in contact with Tim regarding outstanding payments which have still not been received, amidst increasing reports of hardship. Nationally, over 16,000 claim payments are still yet to be paid - around 18% of the total. These claims are worth around £3.2million.
Tim has written repeatedly to Ministers to press for these payments to be made as a matter of urgency, and this week met with the local NFU who explained that South Lakes farmers are particularly hard-hit by the delays, due to the number who farm common land. It is understood the Rural Payments Agency decided to put claims relating to common land at the bottom of the processing pile, due to their complexity. It is thought that there are around 60 farmers in South Lakeland who graze the commons.
Last week, Environment Minister Liz Truss told the NFU "we are on course to make almost all payments by the end of March." This is already a blow to farmers, as the government had previously said that they hoped to complete the "vast majority" of payments "by the end of January".
With depressed prices leading to cash flow problems, research by the NFU has shown that in 2015 farmers racked up record debts, borrowing £17.8bn. Over the past two years, average milk and wheat prices have fallen by more than 30%, whilst pig-meat prices are at a six-year low. Since 2000, the number of dairy producers has halved to 13,815.
Tim has written to the Prime Minister to explain the situation facing local farmers, requesting that they receive payment as a matter of urgency, and that claims relating to common land are not left till last.
Tim said: "The situation for farmers in South Lakeland is critical. They have faced a perfect storm of depressed prices, terrible flooding, and now to add to that - government delays in delivering payments they had been promised. Farmers are facing an incredibly difficult time, and it is simply not acceptable that the government has continually delayed these payments.
"Farmers are facing spiralling debts, yet the government is keeping them in the dark about payments which they had expected to receive as early as December.
"Claims relating to common land need to be processed alongside other claims. The government is putting them off to make their figures look better, but they are playing a dangerous game with people's livelihoods. It is unfair to keep farmers waiting for months, when they are already facing great hardship."