Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced the opening of the 2015 Single Application process.
The Single Application online service is available from today, with paper packs beginning to arrive with farmers before the end of March 2015.
This year’s application process heralds significant changes under EU reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with the introduction of various new schemes, such as the Basic Payment Scheme and Greening Payment, the Young Farmers’ Payment and the Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC ) Scheme (subject to European Commission approval).
With the introduction of the new schemes for 2015, Minister O’Neill has urged farmers to submit their applications via DARD’s online service to minimise the potential for any errors when claiming under the new area-based schemes.
Minister O’Neill said: “This year sees the introduction of various new schemes following EU reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and I am conscious that farmers have had to digest a lot of information and make decisions in preparation for the 2015 Single Application process.
“From today, farmers and their representatives can submit claims to a number of area-based schemes on the Single Application via DARD’s online service.
“I welcome the input and support of farmers’ groups in developing the 2015 online service, undergoing further changes from that used in 2014. This has resulted in a more user friendly system which I’m confident will enable applications to be completed quickly and accurately for the benefit of both farmers and the Department.
“With the introduction of the new schemes there are different rules for payment, and farmers can’t afford to make mistakes in the application process. Even simple errors can result in financial penalties. The online application system is designed in such a way to help farmers avoid common errors,” she added.
“The online system also features a new tool to help farmers find out if they have a greening requirement to meet in order to receive a Greening Payment. It is essential that farmers understand if they a have a greening requirement and if they use the paper application form, it can provide no assurance that they are meeting their greening obligations.”
In concluding, Minister O’ Neill added that if more farmers apply using the online application service, it would help DARD speed up the payment process. She said: “This will be a challenging year and with paper application forms not being available until late March I would urge farmers to apply early via the online system given its many advantages over paper applications, not least in helping my department to speed up the payment process, so help us to help you.
“I would ask those who have not yet registered for my Department’s online services please get in touch now, so that you can avail of the Single Application online service when applying this year.”
The Department’s website provides access to a wide range of information, guidance and decision support tools related to the new schemes and this should be the first port of call for farmers seeking to find information on the new schemes. Where farmers are not able to or are uncomfortable with using the internet, the local DARD Direct offices can provide access to the same information.
The Department continues to receive a significant number of enquiries around the active farmer requirement. Advice to farmers in such circumstances is that they need to be taking the management decisions with respect to the fields they claim, taking the risks associated with this and gaining the benefits. Some farmers seek advice on how they should organise their business. While we can provide information, guidance, decision tools and support on their use, such queries may be better directed to a business consultant or accountant.