Payment delay is expected

A four-month delay in agri-environment scheme payments has been branded “unacceptable”.

Natural England has told the NFU that payments will start to be made to farmers in October, but the majority will be in November and December.

Last year most payments were made in August.

The delay has been blamed on IT failures in the spring and the extension of claim deadlines for the BPS and agri-environment scheme, as well as cross-checks to meet EU regulations.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith said: “The delay is completely unacceptable.

“At a time when markets are at their most volatile, farmgate prices are low and farm bank accounts are stretched, it is vital that farmers get the money they are owed as soon as possible.”

A Natural England spokesperson said: “We understand the importance of early payments to the rural community, and Natural England is working to get these out as soon as we can. We expect advance payments for Environmental Stewardship agreements to start being paid from October, and the majority by November and December.”