More than 95% of farmers received their 2020 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) money in the first day of the payment window for recipients of the scheme according to figures released by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Approximately £1.671 billion was paid to farmers for BPS on the first day of the payment window, which runs from December to June, a further improvement on 2019 where £1.192 billion was released.
In addition, eligible farmers were issued Countryside Stewardship (CS) revenue payments totalling £40 million and Environmental Stewardship (ES) payments totalling £60 million are expected within the first few days of the window.
Those who claimed CS and ES agreements in 2020 will receive one full payment this year as part of a wider plan to deliver a better service to farmers and land managers.
This is the first year that these payments have been funded directly by the UK government rather than by the EU.
RPA Chief Executive Paul Caldwell said:
"We are committed to ensuring timely payments to farmers and land managers, so that rural businesses can plan for the year ahead.
2020 has been a challenging year for many and I have been really pleased at the progress we have made which has resulted in this level of performance despite the difficulties presented by coronavirus.
"This is testament to the hard work of people within the agency and the measures we have taken to further simplify CS."
How are payments made?
BPS payments are made direct to bank accounts via BACS transfer so farmers should ensure that the RPA has the most up-to-date account details on the Rural Payments service.
As part of a wider agricultural transition plan, the government announced that Direct Payments will gradually be reduced over a seven-year period, starting from the 2021 BPS year.
This money will be used to fund new grants and schemes to boost productivity and reward environmental improvements.
Support and advice will be available to help those most affected by the phasing out of Direct Payments during the agricultural transition period.
Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said:
I am delighted that the efforts of the Rural Payments Agency during this difficult year has resulted in more farmers getting their payments quickly.
"From next year we will start to use funds released from the BPS to reward farmers and land managers for sustainable farming practices, help them to improve productivity and we will ensure that there is farm resilience support available for the first three years of the agricultural transition period."