December date revealed for £180million in Single Farm Payments

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THE first of the 2012 Single Farm Payments will be credited to farmers’ bank accounts around December 7, Minister Michelle O’Neill has revealed.

The department is aiming to finalise around 80% of the 37,600 claims submitted to the scheme in December 2012 and the vast majority of farmers will receive their payments before Christmas.

“This year’s Single Farm Payment will be worth around £245million to local farmers when all payments are completed,” the Minister stated.

“Although this is less than last year because of the less favourable exchange rate, the Single Farm Payment continues to make a significant contribution to farm incomes. Around £180million will be paid out in December 2012 and the rest will follow as soon as the issues which are preventing payment on the remaining claims have been resolved.”

European Union rules permit DARD to make payments only when eligibility has been fully established. In some cases this will mean claims cannot be paid immediately.

Outlining the instances in which payment might be delayed, the minister said: “The EU rules require my department to carry out checks on all claims to verify eligibility and to calculate the correct amount due before a payment can be made. Many of the cases that we cannot pay immediately, particularly those which had on-farm inspections, have identified land eligibility concerns and changes to farm maps and, therefore, require investigation and more complex assessments which take time to complete.”

Referring to the work already carried out by DARD to upgrade the arrangements for finalising inspected cases the minister said: “I am pleased to say that the improvement measures I introduced last Spring will result in more inspected cases being paid at an earlier stage. The objective is to finalise the majority of payments on inspected cases by the end of May 2013. On the other hand, some farmers have claimed significantly more than the visible eligible area on maps in 2012 and not provided the department with a reason. Some of these payments may be delayed as a result of the need to check these claims more carefully. Once again, I appeal to farmers to check their new maps carefully when they arrive shortly and engage with the department if they wish to claim more than the maximum eligible area in each field.

“There are also a number of other issues that prevent claims being completed. These include, conflicting information declared for the same field by the same farmer under different aid schemes, bank account details not provided, approval of probate awaited or queries about the availability of the land to the applicant. I would urge farmers who have not already done so, to supply their bank account details and, where applicable, to respond to correspondence from my department without further delay.”

In conclusion Minister O’Neill said: “Farmers should avoid phoning Orchard House about their payments unless it is absolutely necessary over the course of the next two months. This frees up the maximum number of staff to work on getting payments out instead of taking time to investigate when specific payments might be made. If a call to Orchard House is unavoidable, we would appeal to callers to be patient, as phone lines are likely to be busy at peak periods.”