Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has confirmed that DARD has begun a check of all 2015 Single Application Forms (SAFs) aimed at ensuring that only those businesses that are genuinely separate are able to access funding under the new area-based schemes.
Earlier this year the Minister announced that tighter controls were to be introduced regarding farm business identification numbers and that a review of existing business identification numbers would also be carried out.
The latest check, which is one in a series of checks undertaken in the assessment of 2015 applications, has involved cross checking SAF applicant details with information held by the Department on the Animal Public Health & Identification System (APHIS).
Minister O’Neill said: “My officials are currently reviewing applicant farm business identification numbers and have identified a number of cases where associated herds or flocks are registered on the APHIS system to two or more businesses that have submitted a 2015 Single Application Form. This may be an indicator of a lack of separateness between the businesses as it may suggest that they no longer meet the requirement to be operationally separate due to herds or flocks not being managed independently.
“My Department will be writing to each of these businesses seeking an explanation of how their business remains operationally separate. Each response will be considered on its own merit and may be followed up with an on farm inspection to determine what is actually happening on the ground. Should the businesses themselves consider that they are no longer operationally separate, they will have the opportunity to merge the businesses which would result in one set of Basic Payment Scheme entitlements being allocated to the merged business. Herd and flock keeper numbers will remain unchanged unless the keepers wish to merge them as part of a business merger.”
Highlighting the importance of responding to DARD, Minister O’Neill continued: “If you receive one of these letters, it is important that you consider it carefully and act on it within the deadline stipulated in the letter. DARD will not be able to process your 2015 Single Application until you respond. I can reassure farmers that if their businesses are separate they will be able to demonstrate this quite easily and there will be no impact for their business or their payments.”
Farm businesses which are no longer operationally separate should complete the BC3 form provided with the letter they receive and return it to DARD within the deadline to ensure that new entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme can be established later this year.