Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill, has announced stricter controls for the allocation of Farm Business Identification Numbers.
The tighter control mechanisms come into effect immediately following farmers’ concerns that the Regional Reserve may be susceptible to applications from people who have not established genuinely separate new farm businesses.
Announcing the enhanced controls Minister O’Neill said: “My Department and I have undertaken an extensive engagement process with the farming community over the past weeks and months.
“I have listened to farmers and their representatives and have recognised their real concerns that people who have not established genuine separate new farm businesses may submit applications to the Regional Reserve. My Department therefore has reviewed the application process for the allocation of new Farm Business Identification numbers and has put measures in place to safeguard against any possible abuse of the process to ensure that only genuine businesses are allocated Category 1 Business Identification numbers, thereby taking an important step towards accessing area-based scheme funding.”
Minister O’Neill advised that anyone who had been allocated a Category 1 Business Identification number since 1 January 2013 would also be reviewed to ensure that they were, in practice, a separate farm business.
She said: “Where this is proven not to be the case, the Business Identification number will be revoked.
“Access to funding under new Area based schemes should only be for those farmers who are rightly entitled to it.
“Genuine farm businesses have nothing to fear from this enhancement of controls. They will be able to respond to the enhanced assessment process and prove that they are separate businesses with relative ease.”
The Minister has allayed any concerns that these new controls may affect the timeframe for allocating new Business Identification numbers.
She added: “The process for assessing whether a new farm business is independent from all others will take longer than the current approach. I would, however, like to reassure farmers that this will not affect their ability to make an application for Direct Payments in 2015. An application can be made without a Business Identification number being allocated.
“For a genuinely separate new farm business this will not be an issue. They will be able to prove their independence from existing farm businesses and their application for grant aid will be processed once their application for a Category 1 Business Identification number has been confirmed.
“Where it is found that, in practice, a separate new business does not exist, a Category 1 Business Identification number will not be allocated and any application for Direct Payments or the Regional Reserve will be refused.”