51 days left to submit your 2017 Single Application Online

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Time is moving on and although many may leave everything to the last minute, David Rankin chairman of the Agricultural Consultants Association, ACA (NI) urges farm businesses to contact their agents immediately and start to complete their 2017 Single Application Form.

ACA (NI) has been to the forefront in promoting and completing SAFs online.

Prior to 2015 the problem of duplicate fields was a big worry resulting in several businesses being financially penalised.

ACA (NI) engaged in talks with the then Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill who in turn discussed it with Phil Hogan, European Commissioner.

The positive outcome was that from 2016 when a field was duplicated it would trigger a warning on the Online SAF and it could be corrected.

The error warning of a duplicated field and at the same time DAERA making advance part payments are two of the main reasons why businesses should be completing their SAF online.

Another big benefit is having an experienced ACA (NI) agent complete your form online.

We regularly meet DAERA and are kept up-to-date with all the scheme rules.

We also have professional indemnity insurance (it is advisable to check with your agent to ensure they have), which should give you reassurance that your SAF will be completed correctly.

ACA (NI) agents will be able to view your map online, find new fields, measure ineligible features or alter the boundaries and make changes to your map, which is then automatically updated on your SAF field data table.

All this will take the worry out of ensuring your SAF is completed correctly.

When the form is completed you will be able to check it over before it is submitted. If something doesn’t agree with what information DAERA holds you will be warned.

This ensures greater accuracy and hence reduces the need for DAERA to validate what you have provided but more importantly there will be less chance of delays in payment.

Greening is a particularly challenging concept but there are a number of different ways to fulfil the greening requirements, and ensure that you receive the Greening Payment.

Your ACA (NI) agent will be able to guide and discuss these options with you.

When you decide which fields will be in crop and select the appropriate code the computer will calculate your greening requirement, crop diversification requirement and Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) requirement.

The EFAs are now marked on your online map, and once you enter the measurements into the matrix table the total area of EFA is automatically calculated.

Doing your SAF online is more accurate, easy to use and quick with an instant acknowledgement email once it is submitted.

If you completed your SAF last year as a paper copy you will not receive a paper copy this year, although DAERA has sent out useful guidance advising what you should do.

You need to take action now – ask your farming neighbours who completed their SAF online in 2016.

If it was an ACA (NI) member, please get their details and they may be prepared to take you on as a new client.

Taking action now will help in ensuring that you receive your 2017 payment.

Farmers who completed the SAF themselves or had an agent do it online will not receive any documentation; don’t be waiting for that big envelope with ‘Complete before the 15 May written in bold red writing’ as it will not be coming.

You can find all the SAF details on the computer through the DAERA Online website.

When completing your SAF, remember to NOT claim ineligible features.

DAERA inspections in the past have highlighted that businesses continue to claim land that does not meet the land eligibility criteria resulting in penalties, which could include the loss of your entire payment.

Therefore it is important to note the following:

r Land must be in agricultural use and there must be evidence of this

r Field boundaries must be clearly demarcated on the ground

r Watch and reduce the size of a field with overgrown wide hedges or those with a combination of scrub and/or whin.

r Bracken is not eligible

r Rushes that are not properly managed means that area is ineligible. It must be accessible to grazing livestock, and support grazing livestock.

r The same rules apply on common land as for non-common land. There must be evidence of agricultural activity taking place across the entire common otherwise deductions will be made and applied equally to each of the shareholders.

r Land that is permanent out of agricultural use is not eligible