Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has spoken of his concern that no farmers have received approval for their Farm Business Improvement Scheme Tier 2: Tranche 1 applications.
Mr Irwin said it was unacceptable that many months after the closure of the scheme to applications, no one had been notified whether or not they had been successful.
He added: “This is really concerning and I have taken a number of calls from farmers and agents who have put considerable financial resources into preparing applications to the scheme. These individuals are frustrated by this lack of communication by DAERA officials, especially when they reflect on the significant amount of work that has went in to preparing an application to the scheme.
“There was a lengthy procedure for the preparation of an application to the scheme involving seeking and securing planning permission, business plans, banking support letters, farm business planner map and a host of other requirements.
“Indeed, should an applicant have been even a day late in submitting their application, it would have been excluded.”
Mr Irwin said that it is all the more annoying and frustrating for farmers to see that, months down the line, they are yet to hear of the success or otherwise of their applications.
“To me, this sends out a very poor message to the farmer that the Department is not up to speed in processing these claims.”
He concluded: “This type of grant aid is designed to help improve farm businesses, it is in place to bring much needed help and support to our industry and when farmers applied to the scheme they expected to be able to receive their grant approvals much sooner. I have been informed that assessment panels on the applications have yet to conclude their assessments, which is also a huge concern for farmers.
“This is something that I have raised directly with the Department and it is absolutely crucial that farmers are notified of the progress of their application as soon as possible.”
Responding, a DAERA spokesperson said: “The Department has communicated with all applicants to Tier 2 of the FBIS. Every single applicant has been informed by letter either that his or her application is proceeding through the assessment process or that it has been rejected as it has not met the initial eligibility requirements.
“Appeal options explained have also been explained. All eligible Tier 2 applications are currently being processed and the Department has been contacting individual applicants and asking them to provide any necessary clarification on elements of their application. The Department expects to start issuing Letters of Offer to successful applicants next month.”