Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced that more farmers than ever before will receive Single Farm Payments in December 2014.
The minister said that her department had ensured that 95% of Northern Ireland’s almost 31,000 farmers had now been sent a payment.
However, she insisted that they would not stop there and would continue to assist those who had not yet been paid.
Payments totalling £234.6 million have been issued to farmers.
Welcoming the record payment performance, Minister O’Neill said: “This record payment performance was achieved because more applicants applied online and because of the dedication and diligence of DARD staff who shared my determination to ensure as many farmers as possible received their payments as soon as possible. Targets have not only been met but exceeded. 95% of claims have been finalised for payment in December, including over 600 subject to inspection via Control with Remote Sensing. More claims were paid in one day in December 2014 than in the whole month of December 2013.”
Referring to the work carried out to deliver payments to a record number of inspected cases the minister said: “I am particularly pleased to see a significant improvement in the processing of inspections in 2014. For the first time ever, the majority of inspected claims were paid in December and I expect all inspected claims to be processed by March 2015, earlier than ever before.”
Highlighting the department’s ambitions for the future, the minister said: “Next year a new set of schemes will be introduced and this will bring challenges both for farmers and my department. I would strongly encourage farmers to go online themselves or ask their agent or form filler to go online. It’s the most effective way to avoid mistakes and crucially it will speed up the processing of applications and thus payments overall. I commend use of the online application in particular for farmers who potentially have positive greening requirements to meet. The online form will provide you with indications of these requirements and what you need to do to meet them, which the paper version cannot.”
The DARD online application system is the quickest and easiest way for farmers to apply for payment. Once an applicant has submitted a claim they instantly receive a receipt and summary of their application. As well as the payment process being more efficient, it removes the need for applicants to queue at their local DARD office.
In conclusion minister O’Neill said: “This is good news for farmers in 2014 and something we can build on in future years as we launch a new set of schemes.
“The increase in the number of claims made via DARD’s online application system in 2014 has contributed to this record payment performance. I hope that more farmers will now see the benefits of applying online. I want to work closely with the farming unions in the run-up to May 2015 to see if we can together make it happen.”