Rural Payments Agency

Rural Payments Agency
Executive agency overview
Formed 2001 (2001)
Minister responsible
Executive agency executive
  • Mark Grimshaw, Chief Executive

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) is an executive agency of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The RPA delivers the European Union (EU) Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to farmers and traders in England, paying out over £2 billion in subsides each year.[1] The Agency managing more than 40 schemes, the largest of which the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) paying more than £1.5 billion to around 105,000 claimants a year.[2]

Along with paying subsides the Agency have a number of other roles including managing the British Cattle Movement Service[3] and the Rural Land Register[4] which holds around 2.4 million registered land parcels digitally, and sends land maps to landowners in England.

The Agency is the EU's single paying agency for market support measures across the United Kingdom under Defra authority and as agreed with Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland's Ministers.

RPA works closely with Natural England and the Forestry Commission which are responsible for authorising payments under the Rural Development Programme for England for schemes including Environmental Stewardship and the English Woodland Grant Scheme.

Part of the role of the agency is to issue holding numbers and vendor numbers to landowners in England who wish to take advantage of the various schemes Defra offers.

The RPA publishes an annual business plan[5] which sets out its targets and commitments to its customers, Defra and the taxpayer.

The agency is working closely with Defra towards implementation of the CAP payment schemes.


The RPA was created on 16 October 2001 from the amalgamation of the Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce and the Defra Paying Agency[6] as a single paying agency for most Common Agricultural Policy schemes in England and certain schemes throughout the whole of the UK.[1] Most notably the agency is responsible for administering and distributing the Single Payment Scheme to farmers in England. It also enforces the European Union's regulations on the class, quality, size and shape of vegetables and fruit sold, by warning and advising businesses, and occasionally prosecuting under section 14 of the Agriculture and Horticulture Act 1964.[7]

In 2003 the British Cattle Movement Service, which manages the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) for the whole of Great Britain, was amalgamated into the RPA. It maintains a register of births, deaths and movements of cattle to be used for animal health purposes; issues cattle passports; and records where individual cattle are, as well as operating a dedicated helpline.[8] It handles around 20 million transactions per year, the majority recorded online.

Single Payment Scheme

The Rural Payments Agency experienced difficulties in implementing the EU's new Single Payment Scheme in 2005 and in effectively processing payments to farmers. A National Audit Office report published in October 2006,[9] highlighted the key issues.

The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published on 18 January 2006 a highly critical interim report [10] into the agency's IT systems and activity.

On 15 March 2006 the Chief Executive Johnson McNeil was sacked when a deadline of 14 February for calculating Single Payment Scheme entitlements was missed.[11][12]

Further, on 12 June 2006 the RPA confirmed[13] that an internal inquiry was under way into "outrageous behaviour" in the agency office in Newcastle.

Following a series of senior management changes during the mid to late 2000s, Mark Grimshaw took over as Chief Executive in January 2011 and established a new Executive leadership team.

The agency published a new Five Year Plan] in February 2012.[14] For the 2011 Single Payment Scheme, RPA recorded its best ever performance, paying more than 95% of the 2011 fund to 96% of claimants by the first week of March 2012.

The agency further continued to improve its performance and in his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference on 3 January 2013, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson,[15] announced RPA had paid out more than £1.4 billion to 97,000 farmers by the end of December 2012. It actually achieved its target for December 2012 on the first banking day of the month.

The Single Payment Scheme was replace with the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015.[16]


RPA has six main offices which are all located in England. The head office is in Reading, and it's other major offices in Carlisle, Exeter, Newcastle upon Tyne, York and Workington.[1]


  1. 1 2 3 "About us". UK Government. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  2. "BPS 2016 - Detailed guidance". UK Government. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  3. "British Cattle Movement Service". UK Government. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  4. "Register land with the Rural Land Register". UK Government. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  5. "Rural Payments Agency Business Plan 2014 to 2015". UK Government. 15 July 2014. Retrieved 2016-10-30.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-07-23. Retrieved 2009-08-01.
  7. Rohrer, Finlo (2008-11-12). "Will we eat wonky fruit and veg?". BBC News. Retrieved 2008-11-12.
  8. "BCMS About Us". UK Government. 2016-02-02. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  9. "The delays in administering the 2005 Single Payment Scheme in England – National Audit Office". 2006-10-18. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  10. The Committee Office, House of Commons (2006-01-24). "House of Commons - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Fifth Report". Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  11. "Head of countryside Quango sacked". Daelnet. 2006-03-15. Archived from the original on 2006-06-26.
  12. "Tories urge farm minister to quit". BBC. 2006-03-27.
  13. "Downfall of the naked civil servant". Metro. 2006-06-13. p. 16.
  14. "Publications - GOV.UK". 2013-02-20. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2013-03-18.
  16. "Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)". UK Government. 24 February 2015. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
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