Advanced payments increased to 70%

Tyrone farmer Ashley McKelvey shows UFU leaders Ivor Ferguson and Barclay Bell around his flooded farmyard and fields. Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Tyrone farmer Ashley McKelvey shows UFU leaders Ivor Ferguson and Barclay Bell around his flooded farmyard and fields. Picture: Cliff Donaldson

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed that the rate of advance CAP payments to farmers will increase from 50% to 70% of claim value.

The Department made its application to the European Commission for the increase in advance payments following the heavy rainfall and flash flooding of 22 August 2017.

Advance payments will commence on Monday 16 October 2017 and will be made to all eligible farm businesses in Northern Ireland which have fully verified claims. Balance payments, or full payments for those not eligible for an advance payment, will commence from 1 December 2017.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it is pleased DAERA and the European Commission have responded positively to its call for an increase in advance CAP payments. It says this will help with cash flow pressures as a result of poor weather.

UFU president Barclay Bell added: “We pushed hard for this increase in what has been a difficult year for weather-related problems. The prolonged periods of heavy rain, which resulted in serious flooding in some areas, have presented a number of challenges.

“Cattle have been housed earlier than usual, silage hasn’t been cut, slurry can’t be spread and harvest has been delayed. This has put a severe cash flow strain on many farm businesses,” he added.

Sinn Féin’s agriculture spokesperson, Declan McAleer has also welcomed confirmation of the increased payments.

He added: “Today’s announcement will come as a relief to hard pressed farmers who have suffered the brunt of extreme weather recently, which has significantly disrupted their livelihoods. This has been particularly felt in the north west where landslides have wrecked farms and community facilities. However, in welcoming this advance this is only a reprieve that will just about sustain the farmers until the new year.”

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said this cash injection will hopefully help farmers prepare for the winter and give businesses some help to manage cash flows.

She added: “From the 16th October advance payments will commence for farm businesses which are eligible and have fully verified claims. While this is to be welcomed I am extremely aware of the fact that there are those who do not fall into this category. The unknown for these businesses is difficult especially trying to plan what cash is available and when they are likely to receive payment.

“As always those who are currently in the inspection process should remain the focus of the Department and additional resources must be directed to this area to ensure payment as quickly as possible. Farmers must also be communicated to in good time if their payment is likely to be delayed and kept up to date in relation to timescales for payment. A particular concern and one which I have raised with the Permanent Secretary is for those who have been badly affected by the flooding on the 22nd August - given the additional financial pressures placed on these businesses - to be supported. The need is very real for those who find themselves in an inspection process and the uncertainty that this brings.

“I am extremely anxious for farmers west of the Bann in particular who have experienced extremely difficult weather conditions recently. This has had a knock on effect on cutting silage, spreading slurry and housing cattle early and is causing real challenges on the ground. I would call upon the Department to notify farmers of the advice available in relation to dealing with the closed period for slurry spreading but also if fodder is short on-farm.

“The issue of slurry spreading is the immediate issue given the weather but I would encourage farmers to contact CAFRE or the UFU to discuss the option of “reasonable excuse”. Ultimately farming by dates is an extremely crude method and one which doesn’t give real cognisance of the practical realities on the ground.”