Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has urged farmers across the Mid-Ulster area to be prepared for the new regulations brought in under CAP reform.
And the Minister said that her Department will do all it can to advise farmers on the best way to make the changes work for them.
At a public meeting in Clonoe, Co Tyrone, the Minister said: “My Department is working hard to make the new schemes as easy as possible to understand, to provide you with the support that you need, to continue to reduce the risk of disallowance, and to build on the level of online claims achieved in 2014.
“While, firstly I want to ensure that the important monies that CAP reform provides are more targeted, more equitable and easily accessible, it is also important to make clear that despite my desire for a simpler CAP regime, the new schemes are greater in number and more complex. Therefore, I want to ensure that you have all the information and tools available to help you make informed decisions about your businesses.”
Around 100 people turned out for the information evening on CAP reform. After the Minister spoke, an official from DARD delivered a presentation which took those attending through the new reforms step by step.
Minister O’Neill said that under the Basic Payment Scheme a set of new payment entitlements will be allocated to farmers who apply and meet the eligibility conditions of the scheme.
She said her Department has undertaken a review of all farm businesses which submitted a Single Farm Application form in 2014 to identify businesses which will not meet the active farmer requirement and therefore would not be allocated entitlements this year. The meeting was told that where it is found that individuals have artificially created conditions to attempt to meet the criteria to access support from the CAP, they will not only be excluded from benefiting from this support but also most likely face penalties.
She said: “It is important that all farmers are prepared as the new eligibility requirements are operational. To help farm businesses prepare and make an accurate claim for payment for the new schemes my Department has recently sent farmers the most up-to-date mapping information which we hold about their business. It is in your interest to ensure that your map is up-to-date and that all ineligible areas are removed.”
The Minister said that a Level 2 qualification in agriculture is required in order to qualify for a payment under the Young Farmers’ payment. She added: “An educational qualification provides both an incentive and a reward for young farmers and will assist in the development of a well skilled and professional industry.”