European Union support payments have started arriving two weeks earlier than normal to help hard-pressed dairy farmers with their cash flow, according to an announcement by farming minister George Eustice.
Mr Eustice said that the first payments have been made to over 10,000 farmers across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, comprising three-quarters of all eligible farmers and amounting to almost £19.2m. He added that payments will continue through November and December.
In response to pressure from the farming lobby, the Government secured a total of £26.6m in support from the European Commission in September, making it the third largest support package among Member States, to help dairy farmers affected by the current global volatility in milk prices.
UK ministers agreed to pay a flat rate linked to milk production and for the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to pay out the money on behalf of the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as England.
The flat rate for dairy farmers in England, Scotland and Wales is just under 0.176p per litre. In Northern Ireland it is just under 0.226p per litre in recognition that Northern Irish farmers have been suffering from some of the lowest prices across Europe.
As Mr Eustice pointed out, it has been a very tough year for dairy farmers, as they have seen the price of milk plummet. He added that in addition to the short-term support provided by the payments, the Government will work to increase the long-term resilience of the industry, including introducing a fairer tax system, pushing for clearer labelling of British dairy products and setting up a futures market for dairy.
In light of the announcement, any dairy farmer in England who receives a letter from the RPA and is asked to register on their system or to provide up-to-date bank account details should call them as soon as possible.