Cross-border talks with farming unions and payment agencies

Farming families with land either side of the England-Wales border have too often been left behind when it comes to receiving farm payments, with many facing extreme financial pressures and being placed at a competitive disadvantage as a result.

That was a key message given to Assembly Members and senior officials from Rural Payment Wales (RPW) and England's Rural Payment Agency (RPA) during a cross party cross border group meeting hosted by Russell George AM and sponsored by the Farmers' Union of Wales.

The group's Chairman, Montgomeryshire AM, Russell George, said:

"As an Assembly Member for a constituency which borders England, I have regularly been contacted by cross-border farmers whose payments have been delayed by months, often leading to financial hardship.

"I know that my colleagues up and down the border come across the same problems, and the same is true for our English counterparts, so the opportunity for the group to speak to stakeholders and senior officials from England and Wales regarding the problem was invaluable."

Outlining the scale of applications for cross-border farms registered in Wales, Hugh Morgan, Head of RPW, highlighted that they had received 249 cross border applications in 2016, while in 2017 the number had risen to 257. A similar number of cross-border farms are registered in England and dealt with by the RPA.

Mr Morgan said data sharing by RPW for 2015 applications had started in November 2015, and data had been received back from RPA in January 2016.

Acknowledging that there are some practical difficulties, Paul Caldwell, Interim Chief Executive for RPA England said the payment agency was making improvements such as holding discussions with other payment agencies earlier, implementing early calculations of English entitlement values and implementing system improvements to make the data transfer smoother.

FUW Montgomeryshire County Executive Officer Emyr Davies added: 

“The Wales-England border is three times the length of the Scotland-England border and there are around 500 Wales-England cross border farms.

“Such farms have to deal with additional complexity in terms of different sets of rules either side of the border, including different animal movement rules, different reporting systems, and different environmental rules.

“Payments to these families are regularly delayed by months, placing them at a significant disadvantage compared with those who are paid within an acceptable timescales.

“The decision by the cross-party cross-border group to look into this issue is therefore welcome, and we welcome the commitments given by the RPA to improve the way in which cross border holdings are dealt with in order to minimise such delays."