Cumbrian farming officials are already flagging up problems with the next round of farm payment claims.

Just days after the deadline for 2016 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications, union bosses are busy compiling a list of difficulties faced during the race to meet the May 16 cut-off point.

Some farmers had called for a deadline extension so they could make an accurate 2016 application following delays to 2015 payments.

But some feared that extending the deadline would have a knock-on effect, delaying the next round of payments – as happened last year.

The European Union had granted permission for member states to extend the application deadline one month to June 15.

Mike Sanderson, National Farmers’ Union Cumbria county adviser, said he had been working every day for six weeks helping farmers to fill in their forms.

“A third of these have been done on paper and two-thirds online. But the problems have been many. The online system has worked quite well, but it is not the system we were promised twelve months ago,” said Mr Sanderson.

“We have seen farmers receive penalties who should not have been penalised. Field parcels are missing on some applications, and some have got parcels who should not have them, and a lot of the re-mapping has not been done correctly. ,” added Mr Sanderson.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Cumbrian farmers are still waiting for the full 2015 BPS payment.

This includes underpayments to many farmers, and the remainder of the BPS to commons farmers, who received a bridging loan. “I think all our commons farmers now have their 50 per cent bridging loan, but many farmers are reporting the payment doesn’t bear any resemblance to what they should have been paid,” said Mr Sanderson.

“This year’s process, some are spot on, while others are a complete mess. These underpayments are bound to impact on next year’s BPS. Personally I am of the opinion that next year will be no better than this year, which was a total shambles,” he added. “The RPA say the remainder of the monies owed for this year should be out by June, but I think it will be nearer September.”

NFU senior BPS adviser Richard Wordsworth said there was a ‘significant’ amount still owed. He said: “The key is how long will the industry have to wait for top ups to bridging payments and correction to what RPA consider is full and correct payments. “Farmers’ cash flows are still under pressure at a time of the year when costs exceed income.”

NFU vice president Guy Smith said the continuing failure of the RPA to deliver full payments – it had expected to have virtually completed the process by the end of March – raised further questions about how well the RPA’s IT was functioning, particularly for commons and inspections claims.

An RPA spokesman said: “We continue to process and pay all remaining BPS 2015 payments. We have always said that with commons and some inspections cases it has taken longer to collect and validate all the information needed to make a payment that does not risk disallowance. Our focus remains on making compliant payments.”

“We will not know if this year is working until cheques hit farmers bank accounts,” said Mr Sanderson. “If the new IT system had worked we would have done the work for the RPA last year, but because it didn’t work, the agency had to resort to processing paper forms, and they were just not geared up to do this.”

But Alistair Mackintosh, NFU Cumbrian council delegate said ploughing on with 2016 farm payment claims and waving 2015 mistakes goodbye is just not good enough.

“We deserve an explanation and a better service for the next round of the Basic Payment Scheme,” said Mr Mackintosh.

“Many farmers had not received their entitlements statements, and had to fill in their 2016 application forms blind. They were told by the RPA that these would not be sent out until after the May 16 deadline. What use was that.”

The Rural Payments Agency had initially committed to paying “the majority of eligible claims in December”, and then said that the “vast majority” would be paid by the end of January. The agency then insisted it would pay “between 92 per cent and 95 per cent by the end of March.