Quick, easy, secure, and no queues – apply online

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The months of March through to May each year mark an important period in the farming calendar – the completion of the Single Application process.

This year we have witnessed the introduction of new schemes as a result of the European Commission’s reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and despite my desire for a simpler CAP regime, the new schemes are greater in number and unfortunately more complex.

The Single Farm Payment and the Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowance (LFACA) schemes have come to an end.

These have been replaced by the following new Area Based Schemes:

l Basic Payment Scheme

l Greening payment

l Young Farmers’ Payment

l Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme.

In order to receive payment under any of the new area-based schemes you will have to satisfy new or different scheme rules. That said, there’s no change in how you should apply for your payment in 2015, in that you must submit your claims via the Single Application process. However, if you are new to farming, or wish to apply for a Young Farmers’ Payment or the Regional Reserve, you will need to complete a further application form and provide supporting documentation.

You will already have received your pre-printed Single Application forms for 2015, but with three weeks to the closing date of 15 May I would urge you to put the paper form to one side and apply via DARD’s online service. It is the quickest, easiest and most secure way to submit your application. In 2014, 38% of the farming community submitted their applications using the online service, resulting in a quicker payment process, with 95% of farmers receiving payment in the month of December. I want to see this positive trend continue, and with the support of Farming Life readers, alongside that of farming groups, I hope we can achieve 50% of applications being submitted online this year.

Over the past year, my Department sought feedback on the online system and through continuous engagement with the farming community we have made further improvements for 2015 to benefit you, the farmer. Not only is it more user friendly, but we’ve introduced a number of new features to help those who may have more complex claims under the new Basic Payment Scheme.

A significant number of readers will have a Greening requirement to meet in order to receive a Greening payment. Unlike the paper form, if you choose to use the online service you will have the added safeguard of easily identifying whether your farm business must meet a Greening requirement. This advantage alone will reduce the risk of related penalties as you will know instantly if you have a Greening requirement rather than discovering this later, which may happen if you submit your claim on the paper application.

A further benefit of the online system is that it will automatically check your application for errors, and will not allow you to submit it if, for example, you’ve missed a question. It also alerts you if you try to claim more than we think you should. So, if you claim more than the Maximum Eligible Area for any of your fields, you’ll see a message pop up on your screen to ask you to check.

You may be right, but the system is designed to warn you just in case. I appreciate that these are the type of errors that can be easily made, but they are the kind that can cause delays to your claim and possibly lead to a financial penalty being incurred.

Another advantage of submitting your application online is that you can do this at any stage throughout the day up until 15 May 2015 as the system is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The system will save your changes through the process, so you can complete a little each day to fit in with your busy schedule. As in previous years, the online service will issue you with an instant receipt, so you can be confident that your application has been received. So there is no need to waste your valuable time standing in a queue to hand-deliver your paper application form.

If you have never used any of DARD’s online services before, you must first register with the Government Gateway to get started. To register, call DARD now on 0300 200 7843 or go to www.dardni.gov.uk/online-services, or text the word EASY to 66101 to start the registration process.

If you have not already done so, then my advice is to register immediately to ensure that you can complete your online Application before the deadline of 15 May 2015.

You do not need to be a computer expert to use the online application service as it really is easy to use. However, if you prefer, you can ask a friend, family member or form-filler to apply online for you. Even if you don’t have a computer, just call into one of our DARD Direct offices or your local library where free Internet access can be provided.

I appeal to Farming Life readers, help us to help you – complete your Single Application online. It is quick, easy, secure and no queues!