Farmer columnist David Hall, North West Regional Director for National Farmers Union says Defra delays over payments impacting on farm businesses.

MAY 17 saw the deadline for BPS 2021 and Stewardship annual claim, and I hope everyone has met the deadline, if not get it done as soon as possible. The 2021 payment will be the first that will be reduced as part of the Agriculture Transition.

The payment received in December 2021 will have a percentage reduction depending on the size of the claim. Members with a payment of less that £30,000 will have a reduction of five percent which is not significant to some but will be felt. Those with claims over £150,000 will see a much greater reduction in their payment.

The one thing that everyone has in common is that by 2024 the BPS payment will be 50% or less than the value received in 2020. This is something that all farm businesses will need to look to address as Defra move to deliver the programmes under the Agriculture Transition Plan.

One of the proposals put forward by Defra was the creation of a lump sum that farmers may be able to access as part of an exit scheme. This was one of the consultations I mentioned when I said we would have a number of consultations coming down the line.

The NFU have raised our frustrations with Defra as their delays have impacts on farm businesses. This is particularly true in the tenanted sector with a number of farmers looking at the exit opportunity and have deadlines they need to hit if they are to serve notice on their tenancies.

The delays are frustrating and kicking the certainty can further down the road, making it harder and harder to make business decisions on farm.

The month of May not only saw local elections it also saw the elections of the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) across the region. The team have been in contact with all prospective candidates to champion the issues that farmers face and have done their best to get those issues up the priority lists.

Members continue to be targeted for theft of machinery with quad bikes and GPS units proving ever popular. I urge members to do their best to keep their machinery safe and secure.

As farmers we must do our best to make it as difficult as possible for criminals to take our kit. If we are doing all we can to keep it secure, then that gives us a much stronger case to request better policing.

It is hard to push the police to do more to stop quad theft when they are not all locked away with the keys taken out. Members are also finding that it is really difficult to replace kit if it is stolen, so the inconvenience is significant. As good as the NFU Mutual may be at paying claims, the dealers just cannot supply the kit.

We will engage with all the successful PCC candidates and do our best to get them out on farm to hear first-hand the issues members face. I am also hoping that the easing of lockdown restrictions on the 17th May will give clear signals that we can start to have meetings again and we can return to some sort of normality.

I know the whole team are keen to be back out and about meeting members.