Be sure you meet the eligibility and evidence requirements

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With just under two weeks left to the Single Application (SAF) closing date of 15 May 2015, many farmers will be thinking about submitting their claim ahead of the deadline.

For the majority, CAP Reform will bring little change in terms of the information they need to provide, but if you are a young farmer or new entrant applying for the additional support available you will have to meet additional criteria and provide additional evidence in support of your application.

Details of what you are required to provide in support of your application to the Regional Reserve and/or for the Young Farmers’ Payment are set out in the guidance documents already published by my Department (http://www.dardni.gov.uk/guide-to-the-regional-reserve-2015 & http://www.dardni.gov.uk/young-farmers-payment-guidance.pdf) and publicised at roadshows held over the past number of months.

However, with the deadline for applications fast approaching I would like to remind you that before proceeding with your application you should ensure you can comply with the requirements and be aware of the implications for your business that may arise as a result of you being unable to do so.

Since the guidance was published my officials and I have responded to numerous queries about eligibility and evidence requirements and I wish to highlight to you some of the issues raised.

If you are a head of holding (young farmer) or are in control of a business (new entrant) – you must provide confirmation of your Level II qualification along with four main pieces of evidence to demonstrate that you meet the management responsibility requirements. These are;

l a statement/letter from a qualified independent accountant confirming your involvement in the business (including when this commenced) supported by accounts, taxation information and business/partnership agreements as necessary;

l a letter from your bank confirming that you are named on the business bank accounts and can make payments and transfer money from these accounts without authorisation from anyone else;

l you must be named on the Herd/Flock Number and/or Milk Licence where applicable or if your business has no livestock, you must be named on documentation associated with the Quality Assurance Scheme, Plant Health Registration Numbers or other relevant documentation;

l and you must be one of the customer names associated with the DARD Business ID for which the application is being made.

If you are a sole trader you still need to provide all of the evidence listed.

To prove your age, identity and qualification you will need to present your birth certificate/other relevant documents, current passport/driving licence/electoral identity card and a Level II certificate or equivalent with your evidence.

If you are in a 50:50 partnership with another person(s) you are required to provide additional evidence to show that you have overall management responsibility for the business. This can be done via a document outlining details of the partnership but to be acceptable, it needs to demonstrate how you take decisions about management, benefits and financial risks without veto from the other partner(s) and state the date on which you assumed this role. The document should be signed by all partners and witnessed by an accountant.

If you have recently taken management responsibility for a new business as either a young farmer or a new entrant and do not have previous years’ accounts/tax returns as evidence, you should provide a statement from a qualified independent accountant confirming that you are appropriately registered for income tax and the date on which the business was registered.

A copy of your HMRC income tax registration, showing that you are undertaking agricultural activity, should be provided in support of the statement. You must provide business accounts and tax returns as soon as they are available.

If your business doesn’t employ the services of an independent qualified accountant you may not be eligible to apply in 2015. You could, however, seek the services of the required professional to help you establish the required documentation to enable you to apply next year, much like those who have only commenced trading this year, providing you meet the other eligibility and evidence requirements. Equally, if you consider that you have sufficient supporting evidence, other than an accountants’ statement, to demonstrate management responsibility you could apply in 2015.

If your application to the Regional Reserve, as a new business, is unsuccessful it will not be possible to establish entitlements from the Regional Reserve on the land claimed. It may however be possible to establish entitlements outside the Regional Reserve if you claimed SFP in 2013 (activated SFP entitlements of a value of at least €100), never held SFP entitlements but were in agricultural production on 15 May 2013, or by using a Private Contract Clause (PCC1). Allocation of entitlements outside the Regional Reserve will only be possible in 2015.

In closing, I urge you to bring your Regional Reserve application and/or Young Farmers’ Payment registration and supporting evidence in person to your local DARD Direct as soon as possible ahead of the 15 May deadline.