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Farming online EU claims suspended


National Farmers' Union President Meurig Raymond said they had been let down time and time again

National Farmers' Union President Meurig Raymond said they had been let down time and time again

National Farmers' Union President Meurig Raymond said they had been let down time and time again

Plans for farmers to switch to online-only claims for EU subsidies have been suspended after "performance problems" with a new computer system.

The move came after what the National Farmers Union described as "weeks of significant frustration to farmers", some of whom had spent hundreds of pounds trying to submit claims in time for the May deadline.

Farmers in England are now being contacted - by email - to be told they can submit their claims using traditional paper forms. The new system will be used only for farmers to register and download forms to print out.

The Rural Payments Agency insisted the change will not prevent it completing the necessary work on time to make payments to farmers from December.

RPA chief executive, Mark Grimshaw said: "My priority is to ensure that every farmer and agent has the help they need to make their claims on time. Using tried-and-tested RPA forms will make this happen."

"Having listened to feedback, the RPA will now combine existing forms that farming businesses are used to, with data that the Rural Payments system already has.

"This will mean that everyone who is registered and wants to complete a 2015 Basic Payment Scheme claim can do so."

The European Commission has offered a one-month extension to June 15 in the deadline for BPS applications.

NFU President Meurig Raymond said Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss had assured him that enough resources would be made available for payments to be made "in good time".

"We've been working tirelessly on behalf of members over the past few months pushing for a system which is robust and fit for purpose," said Mr Raymond.

"It is clear that the situation has become untenable for our members who are justifiably frustrated, angry and anxious about the developing situation and lack of functionality and communication.

"This has been made increasingly worrying and costly for our members as time is running out and the day-to-day business of farming cannot be put on hold nor can we waste any further time at this critical period in the farming year.

"The NFU has encouraged our members to register onto the new system in good faith, but we have been let down time and time again.

"We know that some farmers have already spent hundreds of pounds on agents' fees and this is an unacceptable situation and the failure of the mapping capability of the systems has been a particular bugbear to our members.

"RPA must now work with the NFU and farmers, sharing its planning and progress throughout the application window and beyond to the payment in December 2015.

"What we need now is a very clear timetable for the new application approach, and assurance that farmers can apply without increased risk of penalties or error and will be monitoring the situation closely in the coming weeks."

The RPA said that while the core computer system and registration operations were "working well", there were performance problems with the online interface used by farmers and agents.