South Lakes MP Tim Farron has said it is "shocking" that DEFRA minister Liz Truss MP visited local farmers today, without addressing the fact that many of them still haven't received the farm payments administered by her department.
At the beginning of May, there were still hundreds of farmers across Cumbria who had yet to receive their Basic Payment Scheme funds from the Rural Payments Agency, which comes under DEFRA, leaving them in very challenging circumstances. Commons farmers in particular have been very badly hit.
The RPA had initially committed to paying "the majority of eligible claims in December", and then said that the "vast majority" would be paid by the end of January. The RPA then insisted it would pay "between 92% and 95%" by the end of March 2016. The head of the RPA told a select committee that "pretty much all of the commons payments" would be made by the end of March.
However, even as late as last week the RPA had only managed to complete 91% of claims, with commons farmers making up a significant proportion of those who have not been paid. The government has now said that "nearly all" 2015 payments will be completed by the end of June.
Tim said: "The administration of the Basic Payment Scheme by the RPA this year has been an utter shambles. Farmers are facing a difficult time due to market conditions as well as the impact of the floods, but the problems have been massively exacerbated by the RPA, which comes under DEFRA.
"The RPA has repeatedly failed to pay farmers on time and has misled them. Commons farmers, of which there are many here in South Lakeland, are bearing the brunt of this failure. Liz Truss must acknowledge the hardship this has caused - farmers need serious action to ensure this is never repeated, not ministerial visits."
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