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Farmers turn to food banks after delay in EU subsidies

Farmers are being forced to use food banks because of a delay of more than a year in the payment of subsidies, according to the BBC.

Thousands of farmers have yet to receive their “basic payments”, the main European Union subsidy paid per hectare, for this year or last year.

Some of the worst cases of hardship involve families farming on common land, which they do not own but which they and others can use.

The charity Farming Community Network said it was issuing food bank vouchers to those with serious cashflow problems.

One couple with two young children who farm 200 acres on the North York Moors told the BBC they had defaulted on their rent and were “living off a credit card”.

The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “In June we had to sell 40 ewes with lambs and this autumn we’ve sold more female lambs to pay the animals’ feed bills after our credit ran out.

“We are now are using a credit card to buy food.”

The subsidy they have not received makes up 90 per cent of their farm income.

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which distributes EU farm subsidies and has been fined £661 million for late payments, said it was still reviewing the 2015 claims for 1,200 people, the BBC reported. The delay in making payments is said to be partly due to changes in the way land is mapped.

Mary Alford, who farms on Dartmoor in Devon, told the BBC she was still waiting for a third of her payment.

“I can’t do a cashflow, the deadlines are constantly being broken and no one is accountable,” she said.

Neil Parish, chairman of the Commons environment select committee, said the RPA had “failed large numbers of its customers” last year but its performance had improved this year.

He said: “I remind the RPA not to overlook those farmers, particularly those farming common land, whose 2015 payments still await resolution. It is vital that these claims are also dealt with soon and are not forgotten in the haste to make 2016 payments. My committee will be closely monitoring the Rural Payments Agency’s performance in the New Year.”

An RPA spokesman said: “We know these payments are important for farmers, which is why we are working hard to get them into bank accounts as quickly as possible.

“The RPA is aware of some challenges with a number of commons areas. We are in contact with those farmers affected and will resolve any issues as soon as possible.”

Source: www.thetimes.co.uk - 19 December 2016