O’Neill reassures farmers on replies to associated herd letters

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Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today told farmers they can take more time to consider their response if they have received an associated herd letter.

Last month, the Minister announced that DARD would be writing to a number of businesses where a cross check on 2015 Single Application Forms had identified that herds or flocks registered to one business ID were associated on APHIS with herds or flocks from a different business ID. The businesses involved have been asked to explain by 9 September how the businesses are operationally separate or, if they are no longer operationally separate, to merge.

Minister O’Neill said: “I appreciate that many businesses who have received this letter want to give careful consideration to this issue before responding. I would encourage businesses which are in a position to do so to respond to us by 9 September. This will help us continue to process your 2015 Single Application Form and, providing there is no uncertainty with the separateness of the business and no other issues with your claim, to make payments to you in December. It is particularly important that any business which has received this letter and has also applied for the Regional Reserve responds by 9 September to allow us to calculate entitlement values for all farmers.

“However, there are other businesses which may need to take more time to consider the options open to them or to ensure that they can demonstrate to DARD that they are operationally separate. In these cases, DARD will still accept the explanation of operational separateness or merger applications received after 9 September. However, the later the response from the businesses, the more likely it will be that their 2015 payments will be delayed.

“We cannot progress the applications for these businesses until they advise us they are merging or confirm they are separate. So businesses need to be mindful that a delayed response is likely to delay their payment.”

She continued: “I understand that in some cases herds and flocks are grazed or managed together within the same family and that there are reasons why businesses are reluctant to merge. However, to be able to receive separate subsidy payments through separate business IDs, the businesses need to be operationally separate. If the businesses are no longer operationally separate, then our advice is that they should merge. They can retain their own business arrangements within a single ID and divide any payment once received in any way they decide.”

Where two businesses merge, current herd and flock numbers can be retained unless the businesses wish to merge these as part of the business merger. It is possible to have more than one herd or flock and to operate a partnership within a single business ID.

More detail and practical examples around operational separateness requirements in particular are available in the Questions and Answers available on the DARD website http:www.dardni.gov.uk.