The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has confirmed that it will not be technically feasible to distribute the 70% advance of this year’s Direct Payments in October, a key plank of the aid package agreed by the EU Council of Farm Ministers in Brussels last Monday.
A DARD spokesperson said: “It is widely recognised across Europe that this year will be challenging for the administration of Direct Payments due to the new schemes introduced under CAP reform.
“The Commission’s recent announcement that they will allow advance payments of up to 70% to be paid from October is based on the premise that all checks and controls have been completed and processes are in place to facilitate an advance payment.
“For many claims, particularly inspection cases, this will not be the case and no payment would be possible in October. Our focus is on ensuring that farmers are notified of their entitlement in November, with payments being made to as many farmers in December as possible.”
Meanwhile, the Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed the announcement by the Commission allowing member states to pay up to 70 per cent of farmers’ direct payment for 2015 but always knew that there were practical issues in relation to delivering this in NI, particularly given that this is the first year of a new basic payment scheme and there is a significant amount of additional processing of applications that had to be undertaken.
UFU president Ian Marshall said: “The past twelve months have proved incredibly difficult for the farming industry and it’s disappointing that Northern Ireland will not benefit from this decision. The issuing of the basic payment early would have helped to alleviate some of the cash flow pressure farmers are experiencing and would have injected some much needed cash back into farm businesses. However, at the very minimum, I expect the minister and her department to make every effort to ensure that there is an improvement on the 93 per cent of payments that were made in full last December. This has been a hard enough year for farmers and they cannot afford to have any delay to their direct payments.”