Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced that the 2016 Single Application Form (SAF) online service will open in the first week of March.
The Minister urged farmers to apply online and on time. Minister O’Neill said: “I am pleased to announce that the online Single application service will be open in the first week of March. This is earlier than 2015, so will provide farmers with more time to make their applications.
“I would urge farmers to prepare now in advance of the SAF opening by checking map details, land and scheme eligibility, so that they can take full advantage of the early opening of the online service.”
The Minister added that she would like her department to be in a position to make advance payments, but requires the help of the farming community to make this possible. She said: “The number of applications being submitted online has been increasing steadily, with 46% applying online in 2015. However, one of the conditions required to deliver advance payments in October 2016, is at least 70% of farmers need to use the online service. It is in the farming community’s interests to ‘help us to help you’. I would encourage more farmers to avail of the online system rather than paper format in 2016.”
Outlining improvements to the online service for 2016 Minister O’Neill said: “2015 saw an improved online service. However, my department has listened to both stakeholders and farmers and we have made further improvements for 2016, including, error alerts, an instant receipt and summary of the claim, and compatibility with a wider range of browsers.
“The application now includes access to farm maps, plus the ability to make changes to the map which automatically updates the field data in the application. We have also developed an online Ecological Focus Area (EFA) process for those farmers with a positive greening requirement who need to report on their EFAs. This will be available in early start of April and is a significant improvement on the paper system which was used in 2015. All farmers who have an EFA requirement will need to use the online system.”
The Minister also announced that the Young Farmer Registration window will open on 1 March and the final date for the submission of supporting evidence is 15 April.
She said: “Young Farmers, New Entrants and those applying to the Regional Reserve need to register and the six week application period for this starts on the 1 March. I encourage all who intend to do so, to read the guidance available on the DARD website, collate the evidence you need and register on time to reduce the potential for delays at a later stage.”
Concluding, Minister O’Neill said: “My message for this year’s SAF period is to start early, do it online and finish on time. All your information will be available online, including your map. It’s the easiest, quickest and safest way to apply and the more that apply online, the greater potential of making advance payments in October 2016.”