Minister targets July date to complete SFP claims
THE end of July is the target date for finalising the majority of outstanding 2011 Single Farm Payment claims, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has revealed.
The minister confirmed the target when she met with the chair and deputy chair of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee earlier this week.
The minister explained that DARD had been meeting its targets on SFP but added that she was concerned at the level of payments still outstanding.
To date more than £250 million has been paid out with a further £7 million still to be paid. The outstanding payments relate to cases where adjustments have been needed or insufficient details submitted.
The minister also briefed the committee representatives on new initiatives being adopted by her department – including satelite imagery – which should assist with the process in the future.
Speaking after Monday’s meeting, Minister O’Neill said: “So far almost 96% of Single Farm Payment claims in 2011 have been finalised. We have paid out around £256.8 million, with potentially a further £7.2 million still to pay in relation to remaining inspection cases. At this stage, I am hopeful the majority of inspection cases can be finalised by the end of July.
“There are a number of reasons why outstanding claims have not been finalised. These include where farmers have not provided bank details, where probate is outstanding and where inspection results have still to be applied. For the 2011 claim period, my inspectors checked around 66,000 fields and identified changes to boundaries and ineligible land in nearly all cases. Where this happens, we are required to adjust these claims to take account of the changed area of eligible land and also to identify how this change impacts on payments made in earlier years. These assessments are complex. The length of time required to finalise a claim depends on the number of adjustments that need to be made.
“My department has been meeting its targets on paying Single Farm Payment, and I am pleased about this. However I am concerned at the level of payments still to be made. I am conscious of the current economic climate and I recognise that a later payment of SFP can add to difficult financial situations that some claimants may find themselves in.
“I have already articulated my determination to drive an improvement in this area and start to speed up the rate at which Single Farm Payments are made. I have made changes to the processes in place this year. However, I am constrained from further action by the requirement to administer the scheme in accordance with EU legislation.”
The minister explained that the initiatives her department is implementing in the EU Compliance Programme, will drive improvements in future years.
She added: “When we have completed the improvement of our farm maps in line with European Commission requirements, these should be very helpful to farmers in making accurate claims for SFP. This should result in fewer findings at inspection and thus help speed up payment processing. This year we are also testing the use of satellite imagery to help with some inspections for the first time. Again I am hopeful this will be a success and also deliver faster processing benefits in the future.”
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