As an inquiry continues into the chaos surrounding the payment of farm subsidies, Rural Affairs Reporter Sarah Probert spoke to a farmer who is struggling to get by without them...

When Simon Latter became a farmer, he had hoped to make a name for himself as a good livestock producer.

Unlike many in agriculture, he is relatively new to the business, taking a tenancy of a farm in Shropshire six years ago to pursue his dreams.

Today he is left with the prospect of reducing his beef herd just to make ends meet.

He is paying #10 a day on an overdraft he had hoped to have repaid months ago and he has sacrificed family days out in order to pay the feed bill.

The 41-year-old from Whitchurch, Shropshire, is just one of thousands who are struggling to survive after being promised an annual subsidy payment from the Government in February but who are still waiting for it to land on the doormats.

In 2005 he sent in his paperwork for the single farm payment, a new subsidy introduced as part of Common Agricultural Policy reforms, but has received nothing.

Payments were promised at the end of last year, only for the deadline to be swiftly put back to February 2006, with claims the complex processing of applications would take time.

When the payments failed to materialise in February, farmers were then promised many would receive entitlements by the end of March.

Again, nothing happened and Johnston McNeill, the chief executive of the Rural Payments Agency, was sacked.

Farmers have been told it could be the end of June before they get paid, but are never-theless urged to fill in forms for next year's payments.

Yesterday, the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee continued with an inquiry into the chaos at the Rural Payments Agency, while farmers called on Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett to resign.

For Mr Latter, it is a case of trying to balance the books and keep the farm and his job going to support his wife and two children.

"We have had to look at selling some stock. I had hoped to keep the finances balanced and we have had a late spring so have had added costs of keeping the stock indoors," Mr Latter said.

"The situation is very regrettable. I didn't go into farming to have this sort of hassle and awkward situation. I went into this to try and be a good producer and produce fit and healthy stock.

"Every day that goes past, the financial cost rises and it is costing the business #10 a day and at the end of the week that is #70 which I would have otherwise put into the business. The fact is we are trying to plan for the long term and adjust to new systems and this is just making the situation worse."

Mr Latter, who also works for a firm of chartered surveyors, is within ten miles of the Welsh border, where farmers received their payments in December, giving them an advantage in the market place.

The money they have got can be used to boost stock and pay for machinery.

Mr Latter is now fighting to keep his new business, with 140 beef cattle and 180 sheep.

"I started farming in 2000 and expanded from 114 acres to 181 acres and doing that we had to invest in buildings, livestock and at the same time deal with foot-and-mouth in 2001 and low prices.

"They decided to change the system of payments and for a new business having gone through these difficult years of poor returns and then to experience these massive delays it is hard. We have got rent to pay, bills to pay and livestock to sell and we are beginning to question 'why the hell are we doing this?'"