Check your farm maps now, farmers urged

THE coming weeks will see 38,000 farmers across Northern Ireland receiving updated copies of their official farm maps, which will be used as the basis for the 2013 Single Farm Payment (SFP) Application Process.

The new maps represent the latest stage in DARD’s ongoing campaign to improve the accuracy of the land information that is available to local farmers. This, in turn, will improve the accuracy and efficiency with which the Department can process SFP applications while at the same time reducing Northern Ireland’s exposure to disallowances, which must be paid back to Brussels when SFP discrepancies are identified.

Andrew Elliott, DARD’s man in charge of the LPIS (Land Parcel Identification System) project, told Farming Life that the new digital maps feature field boundaries that have been moved to coincide with physical boundaries, as viewed on the aerial photographs.

“A significant proportion of the new maps are based on aerial photographs that were taken using digital technology in 2012. Last year we managed to photograph approximately half of the field areas in Northern Ireland using this new system. We want to build on this resource during the year ahead. However, the oldest of the maps now being issued go back to 2010.”

He continued: “We are confident that most ineligible features captured within fields have been identified. One grey area in this regard relates to scrub and whins, which may or may not be low enough, in terms of size, to be utilised for grazing. In such instances the farmer must confirm the actual use of the land areas identified.”

But the biggest change with regard to the new maps is the inclusion of a calculated ‘Maximum Eligible Area’ for each field.

“It is this figure that will be used for the calculation of the 2013 Single Farm Payment,” Mr Elliott stressed.

“On that basis, we are calling on all farmers to check and verify the accuracy of their new maps within two to three weeks of receiving them. This can be done by calling in to a DARD Direct Office.

“It is much easier to amend the maps now, rather than wait until the 2013 SFP application has been submitted.”

He continued: “The latest aerial photos are already showing up discrepancies in areas previously claimed by farmers. This information will allow the department to concentrate more accurately on those regions of Northern Ireland where inspections should be focussed.”

Mr Elliott concluded: “Digital photographs, covering all of Northern Ireland, should be available by the end of this year. And as these updated farm maps come on stream, we will make them available to the respective landowners.

“This mapping process has been designed to allow us to process single farm payment applications faster and more accurately. This is good news for individual farmers and for Northern Ireland as a whole, as it should significantly reduce our exposure to disallowances.

“But at the end of the day, the onus of ensuring the accuracy of a farm map lies with the landowner. This is why it is so important for farmers to check the accuracy of the maps they are now receiving and notify DARD of all changes as a matter of priority.”