New inspections planned by DARD

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Strict inspection procedures will be put in place by DARD to ensure that the final criteria agreed for the new Young Farmer Support Scheme are rigorously adhered to.

Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) president Martyn Blair has told Farming Life that the innovative farm support measure will be an integral part of the amended CAP measures, which are set to be introduced next year.

“We met with leading representatives from DARD Policy Division earlier this week in order to discuss all the outstanding issues pertaining to the introduction of the new scheme,” Mr Blair added.

“In response to our request to have these matters settled before the New Year, and specifically our seeking clarification on the eligibility of 50:50 partnerships for the new measure, we were told that discussions between Belfast and the European Commission are at a very advanced stage.

“We were also informed that the Department will establish a formal system in order to verify the status of each farm business applying for the Young Farmer top-up.

“But this is only the tip of the iceberg as the department is also committed to establishing an inspection team which will have the sole brief of verifying that all businesses applying for the support measure have total validity in so doing.”

The YFCU president went on to confirm that his organisation wants the top-up monies to be used as a means of providing genuine support to those farm businesses where the young farmers involved are taking on a role leading responsibility.

“Obviously, we want the monies available to those farms where it will have the most beneficial impact from a business development point of view,” he further explained.

Adding to the uncertainty pertaining to the introduction of the new scheme is the fact that DARD staff have no idea as to how many applications they will receive next year.

“We discussed this matter in some depth,” Mr Blair continued.

“DARD staff know that approximately 2,600 young farmers with an average age of 29 are undertaking the training courses, now ongoing at centres province wide, in order to allow them obtain the required Level 2 qualification.

“But there are no figures available on how many people have already all the boxes ticked in this regard.

“There is only a finite budget available to fund the Young Farmer top-up. So, the more people applying for the scheme, the less money there will be available per farm.

“And this brings me back to the fundamental point that the support available should go to those farmers who can drive forward their business in the most effective way possible.”

Mr Blair continued: “Courtesy of this week’s meeting we stressed repeatedly the absolute necessity for DARD to have these matters resolved as quickly as possible, so as to give young farmers the maximum amount of time to assess how the new CAP support systems can best meet the needs of their businesses.”