Some of the county’s producers are up in arms after claiming they have received lower farm payments than expected.

According to Cumbrian farm leaders, farmers are reporting a shortfall of up to £7,000, after being accused by Rural Payment Agency staff of “over-declaring” and “mapping irregularities”, on their claim forms.

But National Farmers’ Union senior group secretary Ian Mandle says in the cases reported to them, the fault lies with the RPA.

“It is a fact that the RPA have not processed the claim forms correctly. They are so bent on trying to keep to the timescales, and failing, they have not looked at the forms properly,” said Mr Mandle.

“We have seen in the last 10 days an increased number of people being penalised for over-declaring or not meeting greening rules, when they didn’t need to meet them in the first place. It is a total shambles,” he added.

Mr Mandle’s criticism comes following months of delays and problems with farm payments, as local farmers face mounting financial pressure.

“The RPA say people should write in, but why should they? It is not their fault, it is the agency that is at fault. Their overall performance to deliver last year’s farm payment has been “poor”.

These deadlines they give just keep coming and going. They are just paying lip service,” said Mr Mandle.

The NFU and its agents say they are inundated with calls from farmers who say they are having to wait in a queue for up to 30 minutes or more when calling the RPA helpline.

Ian Mandle “When you get through there is nothing the staff can tell the farmers. They can give no realistic timescales. It is a sad and sorry tale,” said Mr Mandle.

“How long are these producers going to have to wait for their shortfall, which is anything from £2,000 to £7,000, to come through?”

Meanwhile, South Lakeland MP Tim Farron accused the RPA of being “shambolic” and “not fit for purpose”.

He said: “Farmers face real difficulty at the moment, and the incompetence of the RPA is threatening the viability of some farms. An unacceptable number of farmers have still not received their payments.

“It is thought that as few as 10 per cent of commons payments have been made in Cumbria. Farmers had expected this money as early as December so in tough times these delays have been hugely disruptive.”

Mr Mandle added they were still waiting for the RPA to resolve the commons issue, with farmers still waiting for the money promised.

“Hopefully this will happen soon. But we also have cross-border claimants who are in a real mess at the moment, and there is no sign of any timescale when their claims will be sorted. These guys are trying to keep going without any of these monies. It’s hard.”

An RPA spokesman said the payments they make are based on the entitlements and eligible land data they hold on the rural payments service. They said payments could be less than last year because of factors such as the exchange rate, a new calculation method and the optional greening method.

They also claimed that not completing the forms to the level of detail required could change the value of a payment.

Mr Mandle said: “These are just excuses. We have helped the majority of claimants fill in their forms, and they were done correctly. Farmers have a rough idea of how much they should receive. They have a business to run, they will not leave it to chance.”