O’Neill advises young farmers to gather supporting evidence early

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has advised young farmers planning to make an application for the Young Farmers’ Payment to gather their supporting evidence early.

Minister O’Neill said: “Recent publication of guidance for those intending to apply for the Young Farmers’ Payment in 2015 has generated many queries in relation to the evidence that applicants will be required to submit. With the registration process set to open in mid-March 2015 it is essential that applicants make a head start on gathering their supporting evidence together.”

Ahead of the application process, the minister has responded to queries from young farmers about the payment, the application process and supporting evidence that will be required.

Who is eligible to apply for the Young Farmers’ Payment?

“To be eligible for the Young Farmers’ Payment:

You must have established and activated payment entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme;

You must be no more than 40 years of age in the year of your first application for Basic Payment Scheme;

You must hold a Level II qualification in agriculture (or a related subject containing at least a farm business management module; and

You must be Head of Holding.”

How do I establish entitlements?

“You must apply for and activate entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme to be eligible for the Young Farmers’ Payment. If you do not otherwise qualify for Basic Payment Scheme entitlements, and you wish to apply for the Young Farmers’ Payment, you must apply to the Regional Reserve for an allocation.”

What evidence will I need to provide to demonstrate I am Head of Holding?

“Head of Holding requirement has generated a lot of queries in relation to the evidence that will have to be submitted. All applicants, including sole traders, will be required to provide four pieces of evidence to demonstrate that they are Head of Holding:

1. The applicant must provide a statement from a qualified independent accountant confirming that they receive at least 50% of the profits (or loss) of the farm business. Applicants will have to provide their most recent business accounts and corresponding tax return in support of this statement. The accountant’s statement should also confirm that the applicant became Head of Holding within the last five years. Depending on your circumstances, it may be necessary to support this with business accounts and a tax return from the year before you became Head of Holding.

2. The applicant must provide a letter from your bank confirming that they are named on the business bank account, can make payments and transfer money from the business bank account without authorisation from anyone else.

3. The applicant must be named on the Herd/Flock Number and/or Milk Licence where applicable. Applicants with no livestock should be named on documentation associated with the Quality Assurance Scheme, Plant Health Registration Numbers or other relevant documentation.

4. The applicant must be one of the customer names associated with the DARD Business ID.”

I have recently become Head of Holding and do not have previous years account as evidence, what should I do?

“DARD recognises that there may be applicants who have only recently become Head of Holding and therefore do not have previous years’ accounts. In this scenario, the applicant should provide a statement from a qualified independent accountant confirming that they are appropriately registered for income tax and the date on which the business was registered. A copy of the applicant’s HMRC income tax registration, showing that they are undertaking agricultural activity, should be provided in support of the statement. Business accounts and tax returns will have to be provided as soon as they are available. DARD will actively follow up on any outstanding evidence.”

I am in a 50:50 partnership with my father, will I need to provide additional evidence?

“Yes. Applicants who are in a 50:50 partnership will need to provide additional evidence to show that they are Head of Holding. This may be a document outlining details of the partnership and indicating clearly that the young farmer applicant is Head of Holding. To be acceptable, such documents will need to demonstrate how the applicant takes decisions about management, benefits and financial risks without veto from the other partner. It should also state the date on which the applicant became Head of Holding and should be signed by both partners and witnessed by the accountant. In all instances, DARD will need to be satisfied that the applicant is indeed Head of Holding and where the evidence submitted does not clearly demonstrate this, further evidence will be sought.”

What must I do to prove my age?

“To satisfy the age requirement, you will need to present your birth certificate and passport/driving licence/electoral identity card.”

Do I need to present my Level II certificate to show that I meet the educational qualification requirement?

“Yes, a Level II or certificate or equivalent should also be presented to show that you meet the educational qualification requirement. If your certificate does not clearly demonstrate that you hold the necessary qualification, you should contact CAFRE for confirmation on eligibility by e-mail or in writing by 30 April 2015. Enquiries received after this date may not get a response in time for the deadline of 15 May 2015.”

I am not one of the customer names associated with a DARD Business, what do I need to do?

“If you do not currently meet this requirement, you should contact DARD Direct on 0300 2007848 for advice on what you need to do. “

Will I be required to submit evidence to show that I have activated and established payment entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme?

“Whilst you will not have to submit evidence to show that you have established and activated payment entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme, it is essential that you satisfy this requirement to be eligible for the Young Farmers’ Payment. If you already qualify for Basic Payment Scheme entitlements, you must apply for the Basic Payment Scheme on the Single Application Form. If you do not currently qualify for Basic Payment Scheme entitlements, you must apply to the Regional Reserve for an allocation. A separate application form will soon be available to download from the DARD website, along with detailed guidance on the Regional Reserve application process.”

How and when do I submit my evidence?

“The Young Farmers’ Payment registration process will be open from mid March to 15 May 2015. During this period, all supporting evidence should be submitted in person at a DARD Direct office. Applicants are advised however to start gathering their evidence as soon as possible to allow for any delays. You may also need to speak to your accountant/solicitor/bank about the financial and legal implications of becoming Head of Holding before proceeding with an application.”