The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has announced that full or balance Direct Payments were issued to 97% of farm businesses on day one of the December 2018 payment window.
This is the highest performance across all regions of the United Kingdom, with payments totalling £85 million issuing on December 1st.
DAERA’s Director of Area Based Schemes, Dr Jason Foy, said: “The Department is acutely aware of the importance of timely Direct Payments to farmers and making a full or balance payment to 97% of farm businesses, totalling £85 million, on day one of the December payment window is an excellent achievement.”
It is expected that payments will begin to reach farmers’ bank accounts from Thursday 6 December, with payments continuing on a daily basis throughout December.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has confirmed that it will reimburse the €444m to European farmers, originally deducted from direct payments for 2018 under the common agricultural policy (CAP) to create this year’s so-called agricultural crisis reserve.
This includes a sum of €3.9m to producers in Northern Ireland. The amounts concerned will be reimbursed to farmers as of 1 December 2018.
Even though the agricultural sector faced critical situations this year, such as extreme weather during the summer, the European Commission did not find it necessary to unblock the crisis reserve in 2018 to provide adequate support to European farmers.
According to a Brussels’ spokesperson, additional support measures taken to deal with the difficult market situation for certain sectors were financed from the available CAP budget.
The damages caused by adverse weather conditions during this spring and summer have been addressed by other measures available to help farmers overcome the consequences.
This includes derogations from certain conditions related to greening payments and higher advanced payments for 2019.
According to the Ulster Farmers’ Union, the crisis reserve was established in 2014.
A Union spokesperson added: “The monies have always been repaid.
“The fund acts as a kind of an insurance policy built into the CAP for farm businesses in the event of a major agricultural crisis.
“It has never had to be used but given increasing volatility in markets, weather and politics it is a welcome safety net.
“As the UK prepares to leave the EU and the CAP, we will need to look for other ways to protect farm businesses against volatility.”