Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips has been pressing the Secretary of State on delays to payments which are leaving local farmers in dire straits.
Mr Phillips pushed the Secretary of State in Parliament on Thursday on delays to payments made to farmers by the Rural Payments Agency.
Speaking during questions to DEFRA ministers, Mr Phillips highlighted the case of a farming constituent, Mrs Musson, who has been left in severe financial difficulties by this year’s delay in payments under the Common Agricultural Policy.
He said she has had extraordinary difficulty contacting the RPA. “The response I had from the RPA was that the payment would come ‘in due course’ and that my constituent should call the agency for hardship assistance, yet that is precisely what she has been unable to do,” he said.
He called for assurances that farmers will not be left in such dire straits in the future, that the relevant help will be more easily available and that the RPA will be more easily contactable.
The Secretary of State, Liz Truss, said all eligible farmers should have received a bridging payment by the end of April, and if this was an ongoing issue for the constituent, she would be happy to assist directly.
She said: “This has been the first year of implementation of the new common agricultural policy system. All payments need to be made within the payment window between December and June, and all payments will be made within that window.
“I appreciate that farmers are struggling with cash flow because of this year’s low commodity prices, which is why we have put in place bridging payments for those final few farmers who have not yet received payments. All that data are now on the system, so 2016 will be much more straightforward and we should be able to pay farmers much earlier in the payment window.”
Commenting afterwards, Mr Phillips said: “I am grateful to ministers for their help with Mrs Musson’s case, but the fact remains that she would not have been in such difficulties if the RPA had been more on the ball with the implementation, and if we had been able to get in touch with them more easily.
“I hope that the Secretary of State is right in her assertion that next year’s process will not see such delays, but I will be pressing her further on behalf of any affected constituents if this does not prove to be the case.”