Chairman of the Stormont Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has met farmers concerned that their banks have informed them their Basic Farm Payment cheques have been stopped.
Mr Irwin said it was very concerning that a number of farmers found themselves in this position and he added that it was poor practice from DARD to issue payment cheques or BACS to farmers and then recall the payments.
He said: “I have been contacted by farmers who received basic farm payment cheques from DARD and when they lodged the cheque in their account, some days later they were contacted by their bank to say the payment was stopped. You can understand how frustrating this is for the farmers concerned and at this moment I am aware of a number of people who find themselves in this position.
“I am trying to establish just how widespread an issue this is across the Province and I would like farmers to make contact with me should they have been informed that their cheque or BACS transfer has been halted or recalled.
“I will be raising my concerns with DARD as it is certainly not professional for the department to be issuing and then recalling payments, especially under these tight financial times for agriculture. The fact remains many farmers have been waiting for these payments in order to get some much needed finance back into their businesses.”
He concluded: “If an issue has been uncovered in an application which requires investigation then this should have been clearly conveyed to the farmer.
“I am frustrated for those farmers who find themselves in this situation and I will be wanting answers from the Department as it simply is not good enough.”
The Department of Agriculture confirmed the issue had affected 28 farmers and efforts were being made to rectify the situation.
A spokesman for the department said: “DARD has made 96% of Basic Payments so far and is currently prioritising the remaining cases. Payable orders were issued in error to 28 customers which were withdrawn when the error was detected. The Department has apologised to the customers involved and has issued BACS payments to 18 of them. The Department is working to make BACS payments to the remaining 10 as quickly as possible.”