UK - EU support payments to help hard-pressed UK dairy farmers manage cash flow problems will start arriving in bank accounts this week.
The payments are two weeks ahead of schedule, according to Farming Minister George Eustice.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) described the announcement as "encouraging", but said that the Rural Payments Agency, which issues the payments, should not lose sight of getting the regular BPS payments out on time.
The first payments have been made to over 10,000 farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – three-quarters of all eligible farmers and amounting to almost £19.2 million. Payments will continue through November and December.
The UK is receiving £26.6 million in support from the European Commission - the third largest support package among Member States – to help dairy farmers affected by the current global volatility in milk prices.
UK ministers agreed to pay a flat rate linked to milk production and for the Rural Payments Agency to pay out the money on behalf of the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.
The flat rate for dairy farmers in England, Scotland and Wales is just under 0.176p per litre. In Northern Ireland it is just under 0.226p per litre in recognition that Northern Irish farmers have been suffering from some of the lowest prices across Europe.
UK Farming Minister George Eustice said: "In addition to this short-term support, our work to increase the long-term resilience of the industry continues, including introducing a fairer tax system, pushing for clearer labelling of British dairy products and setting up a futures market for dairy."
NFU dairy board chairman Rob Harrison said: “Thousands of British dairy farmers will welcome this cash boost announced today, but it is important that we keep this in context.
"The average support package payment will be £1,800 and dairy farmers, on average, are around £6,000 a month worse off compared to this time 12 months ago.
"It’s clear that the impact of the market downturn on farm is different and relates to which milk contract or milk buyer a farmer is supplying. Farmers who wish to offer financial support to those most in need should contact RABI or the Farming Community Network."
NFU President Meurig Raymond said: “I and my fellow NFU Council members stressed to RPA chief Mark Grimshaw at our last meeting in October that all sectors are suffering cash flow problems and to ensure that they are on track to start making full BPS payments in December.”
A government press release said that the RPA is on track to make full payments on BPS 2015 claims as soon as possible within the payment window, making the majority of payments in December and the vast majority by the end of January.
TheCattleSite News Desk