Extension to direct payments period ruled out

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Last week EU agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said that he would consider the possibility of delaying the final date for the submission of applications for direct payments this year.

This was in light of the many significant changes introduced to the CAP support measures in 2015.

He commented: “I am willing to look favourably at the option of a delay in the final date for the submission of applications for direct aid, as a possibility of all member states.”

Responding to this the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has told Farming Life that there will be no change to the previously agreed closing date for application of Friday May 15th.

A Department spokesperson said: “The Department recognises that farmers are being asked to cope with new schemes which are complex, however it is important to state that 15 May is a familiar date for farmers and changing the date this late on might cause more confusion; and later submission of single application forms will delay administration of the schemes as it will result in later selection for on-the-spot checks, later entitlement allocations and ultimately later payments, that is, potentially not possible to pay until 2016.”

Meanwhile, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has met senior DARD officials to discuss the difficulties associated with the implementation of Greening in Northern Ireland.

UFU Deputy President Barclay Bell said: “With spring ground work having already begun there is still great uncertainty around the guidance for the Greening payment and with DARD’s guidance booklet still only in draft form, this meeting was an opportunity for us to raise our serious concerns about the ongoing delays in the provision of guidance, the layout of the guidance booklet and the process of implementing Ecological Focus Areas.

“There is a real concern amongst members of the Seeds and Cereals Committee that the draft booklet presents both confusing and conflicting guidance as well as a lack of information on other matters associated with sheughs, hedges, fallow land and the link between the Greening payment and agri-environment schemes.

“With DARD also recently announcing that the Commission has requested that all Member States ensure that farmers identify measure and map the Ecological Focus Areas on their land, the UFU highlighted that this was making an already complex process even more complicated and that it was not acceptable that DARD has sprung this on farmers at such a late stage.”