NFU calls for improvements ahead of 2018 ES payments

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called for improvements to be made to the current farm payment system ahead of this year’s environmental scheme payment rollout, to enable all agreement holders to be paid in full and on time.

The call follows Defra’s announcement that bridging payments will be made by the end of September to those who are yet to receive 75% of their Environmental Stewardship (ES) payments for the 2016 and 2017 claim years.

Since the Agricultural Drought Summit on August 1, the NFU has been calling for the Government to help ease the cash flow pressures which have built up across the industry due to the extreme weather.

‘A long-term fix is needed’

NFU deputy president Guy Smith welcomed the payments, however, added that bridging payments did not solve the underlying issues.

He said: “The NFU has long been asking for bridging payments to be made to those farmers and growers still waiting for ongoing ES payments, and I’m very glad that Defra has finally listened to our calls.

“Environmental enhancement is very important to farmers. Yet hundreds of our members have been telling us that, after an already challenging year, outstanding payments for ES have been putting further, and unnecessary, pressures on their businesses.

While these bridging payments provide much-needed support for farmers and growers, they do not solve the underlying issues of payment performance and system efficiency.

“A long-term fix in the administration of the scheme is needed to renew farmers’ confidence that the scheme will not leave them under unnecessary financial pressure.”

The NFU continues to call for derogations which will allow farmers to make use of agri-environmental scheme areas to help with fodder provision during periods of drought.