THE deadline to apply for a scheme set up to help dairy farmers during the pandemic has been extended.

The NFU has welcomed the news that Defra has extended the application deadline to midnight on Friday, September 11, giving farmers yet to be paid the chance to apply for a one-off payment.

The Dairy Response Fund was set up by Defra at the start of the coronavirus outbreak to help dairy farmers facing challenges of excess milk, falling prices, and reduced demand from the hospitality sector as bars, restaurants and cafes closed. The fund will be administered by the Rural Payments Agency..

The scheme has been making payments since early July, but with some having only recently received their May milk cheques, the deadline for applications has been extended from August 14 to September 11. Many dairy farmers have been unable to access support through the scheme and the NFU has raised concerns over the eligibility criteria.

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NFU dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said: “Defra’s decision to extend the deadline for applications to the Dairy Response Fund is welcome. The scheme has provided crucial support during the past few months where the impact of Covid-19 has seen milk prices fall dramatically for those affected.

“The NFU still has major concerns about the delivery of the scheme. We receive complaints on an almost daily basis from NFU members who have been rejected from the scheme despite some of them losing up to 50 per cent of their income selling milk to milk buyers in the food service sector.

“Defra needs to reconsider the eligibility criteria of the Dairy Response Fund to ensure these farmers can access the support they urgently need.”