DARD provides reassurance after delayed payment concerns

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The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has confirmed that it will make every effort to ensure that 2015 payments, including those due to businesses that they are required to inspect, are made as promptly as possible.

Responding to recent speculation about delayed payments, a department spokeswoman said: “Over the last number of years DARD has worked hard at improving its payment performance. This is in terms of the number of farmers paid in December and also the latest date by which all farmers eligible for payment are paid. We intend to start making 2015 Direct Payments to farmers from the beginning of December and pay the vast majority of eligible cases by the end of the month.

“The minister will announce further details on the payment target in the coming weeks.”

SDLP Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone has argued that delays in the Basic Payment Scheme due to on-going inspections will cause substantial problems for farmers already under financial pressure from low farm gate prices.

He said: “I have received numerous inquiries from concerned farmers who have been told that their Basic Payments could be delayed until as late as March to allow for DARD inspections to be completed. This will cause massive problems for farmers already facing financial crisis.

“Two years ago in 2013 parts of south Derry and south-west Antrim had an inspection blitz, and money was withheld until the spring of 2014 with all the consequential financial hardship.”

He warned: “It will simply be impossible to sustain that level of loss this time.”