Newry and Armagh DUP MLA William Irwin has given credit to DAERA Basic Farm Payments staff for work on the release of early payments to 94% of farmers.
Mr Irwin said he has been speaking to many farmers who had received early payments and many had expressed relief to see the finances into their accounts given the difficult weather conditions and added pressures on farms at this time.
He said: “As politicians we can be critical of the department on various issues however as a farmer myself and a public representative, I recognise that significant efforts have been made to make payments early and that has to be welcomed.
“Speaking to DAERA officials I am aware that payments totalling £182.7 million have been issued to the accounts of 22,493 farmers and that is an increase on the early payments issued last year.
“I am aware that staff have been working around the clock in order to ensure payments are issued early to a value of 70% of the total Basic Farm Payment allocation per farmer. Having dealt with scores of Basic Farm Payment queries from farmers from across the province, I know that this early payment has been very timely and of significant importance. DAERA officials also state they have seen an increase in the number of online claims which are faster to process and more accurate and that has allowed a greater number of payments to be made.”
He concluded: “With over 22,000 payments made early and that represents a huge workload for the department but the benefit of this work has been to relieve a little of the pressure on our farmers over what has been a very challenging period. This is the only part of the UK where this early payments system has been in operation and it has certainly been a very useful and timely intervention from the department.”