The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed that an advance of the Single Payment for 2016 can be rolled out in October.
This is despite Northern Ireland not reaching the 70% digital application submission rate threshold proffered by former farm minister Michelle O’Neill some months ago.
A DAERA spokesperson said: “It’s a commitment which the new minister, Michelle McIlveen, believes we can now meet.
“However, we would really encourage farmers to apply online in order to make the process more efficient.”
DAERA has also confirmed that 62% of Single Payment submissions were made on line in 2016. This is a considerable increase on previous years.
Minister McIlveen has stated that the process of making available the advance Single payments will commence on October 16th.
Commenting on these developments, Ulster Farmers’ Union president Barclay Bell said: “Given the acute cash flow pressures the industry faces these payments will be anxiously awaited by farming families across Northern Ireland, and this commitment from the minister is certainly welcome. Under current EU rules this advance is limited to 50 per cent of the direct payment but has been allowed to be increased in previous years to help offset severe cash flow difficulties - something which we will be pursuing further.”
He added: “It reflects the move there has been towards on-line applications and we would encourage farmers to do this where possible, since this announcement confirms that doing so creates the conditions for early payments.”
Figures issued by DAERA confirm that 25,455 Single Payment applications were received this year, up to the initial May 15th deadline. Of these, 15,764 were received online (62%), compared with 12,789 (46%) in 2015. A total of 4,013 farmers switched to online applications in 2016.
The Single Payment scheme is worth approximately £220m to Northern Ireland’s agri economy.
Speaking at last week’s CAFRE graduation ceremony, Minister McIlveen made a direct plea to young farmers, encouraging them to ensure that the digital revolution becomes a reality across agriculture as a whole in Northern Ireland.
She said: “In an age where communication is instantaneous, where business transactions are undertaken increasingly online, I am looking to you, as a new generation of farmers and growers to embrace the opportunities presented by online technology and to do business with my Department at any time of the day or night as you look forward to managing your land sustainably into the future.”