Following her CAP Roadshow events over the past month DUP MEP Diane Dodds has said that many questions remain unanswered by DARD and that greater levels of clarity are needed in order to make decision making more informed as farmers face the task of completing their Single Applications Forms.
The most recent meeting was held in the Magherbuoy House Hotel, Portrush in conjunction with the local DUP representative Gregory Campbell.
The meeting was well attended with over 150 farmers and landowners present.
At each of the sessions, Mrs Dodds was joined by DARD officials who outlined some of the detail around how the new CAP will be implemented in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after the CAP meeting in Portrush, Mrs Dodds said: “It is clear that many farmers are frustrated at lack of clarity on specific issues around the practicalities of the definition of an active farmer, under declaration of field eligible areas, greening, young farmer and new entrant.
“DARD are certainly giving the overview of the policy, but when it comes to the detail and how it works on a practical level some of the answers are vague or too much down to interpretation. Unfortunately many farmers are all too aware of the dangers around interpretation and the penalties which can be incurred.
“We need DARD to be more specific in their responses and I would urge farmers to contact DARD officials directly to talk through the issues facing their own business. Now is the time to do this and by doing so hopefully there will be less risk of penalties and dual claims etc.
“Over the course of these meetings it is clear that DARD are focused more and more on the eligibility of the person claiming funding going forward. Whether, this is for an active farmer, young farmer or those hoping to avail of the regional reserve. A focus has been placed on controls, inspections and ensuring people are not creating artificial conditions to avail of funding.”
Speaking after the CAP meeting in Portrush, Mr Gregory Campbell added: “It is clear that farmers have not had the adequate amount of time to get to grips with the implementation of this new CAP. DARD is only now getting guidance and information out to farmers after months and months of deliberation.
“In my area arable farmers have been extremely frustrated with the lack of information around greening.
“The DARD Minister must direct more staff to provide guidance and practical on farm support to farmers. This will ultimately take the pressure off farmers and help reduce the burden on DARD going forward.”