Farmer’s anger at spot check

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A Ballymena farmer who received notification of a Basic Payment Scheme spot check on Monday morning has said she doesn’t think DAERA understands the hardships farmers in Northern Ireland are facing at the present time.

The woman, who asked not to be named, spoke of her anger at receiving the letter just days after the Department notified farmers that advanced payments would be issuing from this Monday morning, 16th October.

She spoke of the stress the letter has imposed on the family, who had extended the business overdraft on the back of assurances to the bank that the advanced payments were on their way,

She added: “This is just so stressful. I rang my local office and was told we might receive some of the payment before the end of November, but he wasn’t sure and it might not come through until February 2018.

“We got our first cut of silage done in June and haven’t been able to get the second cut in. Our cattle has been in all summer as we have an exceptionally wet farm and they are going through the first cut like mad. Luckily we were able to get slurry out on ground that we have rented.

“It is a crisis and I think the department doesn’t understand, and then to get a letter to say that our payments are delayed because of a spot check is a slap in the face. You just feel that there is no point in going on.

“This has been an exeptional year, farmers are in crisis and the department doesn’t understand the hardships that farmers are going through,” she added.

A spokesman for the Department said DAERA is very conscious of the importance of the Basic Payment Scheme to farmers.

The spokesman added: “With payments of some £287 million distributed annually into the farming community through such schemes, the EU requires 5% of applications to be chosen at random for inspection, or On The Spot (OTS) checks, each year. Regulations require these to be carried out prior to payment to check details such as land eligibility.

“DAERA has already completed a significant number of OTS checks and many businesses have received a report detailing the findings of this check. These businesses, and those finalised over the next two weeks should receive an advanced payment. As most of the OTS checks are carried out using satellite techniques, some farm businesses may not have been aware that a check had been carried out – therefore DAERA has written to inspected businesses to ensure that they are aware of the check. Unfortunately we are not permitted to write to businesses any sooner as this may reduce the effectiveness of the control. However, DAERA is making every effort to make payment to as many inspected businesses as possible, and is on target to pay at least 20% of inspected businesses an advance payment and the majority during December. Furthermore, DAERA aims to pay all inspected business by the end of February 2018, which is earlier than ever before.”