DAERA is urging all farmers who have not yet taken any action on this year’s Single Application, particularly those who have to submit additional information, to act now.
This is one of the most important things that farmers will do this year so they are urged not to take any risks and make their applications well before the deadline of midnight 15 May 2018.
Check your land
It is often very difficult for DAERA to determine from aerial photography whether bogland and areas covered with heather are eligible and are being managed.
As with any field, it is the farmer’s responsibility to ensure that they only claim on eligible land and deduct all ineligible areas irrespective of what may be indicated on their online map. DAERA strongly advises farmers to walk their land prior to making their application.
In recent years a 100% penalty has been applied to a significant number of claims due to the inclusion of bogland and areas covered with heather which, following an on-the-spot inspection, have turned out to be ineligible.
Land is only eligible to claim direct payments if the vegetation is kept in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation as outlined in the DAERA land eligibility guidance booklet for 2018. Agricultural activity must be carried out over the entire area being claimed on a significant and consistent basis in the calendar year of the claim.
At an on-the-spot inspection, evidence of at least one of the following agricultural activities being carried out on all of the land being claimed must be available from its appearance:
q Grazing e.g. paths made by animals, animal droppings
q Growing and harvesting a crop
q Management of the vegetation such as flailing or controlled burning of heather
Placing small numbers of animals on large areas of bogland or heather is unlikely to make these areas eligible. Similarly, the presence of animals on these areas for a short period is unlikely to make them eligible. If evidence of agricultural activity is only present on part of a field, then the remainder of the field will be ruled ineligible.
Wildfires or burning more than 20% of the heather area is not considered controlled burning and therefore is not agricultural activity. If the fire is due to a reason beyond your control, you may wish to submit a force majeure application within 15 working days of the event for consideration.
Land being claimed must be eligible for the entire calendar year, so action undertaken after an inspection has found the land to be ineligible can only make the land eligible for the next calendar year.
You should consider very carefully about claiming areas in 2018 which do not make a significant contribution to the agricultural activity of your business, as there is a high probability that these areas are ineligible.
Land damaged by floods in August 2017
Farmers who had land damaged as a result of the floods on 22 August 2017 and the land remains temporarily unavailable for agricultural activity or eligible woodland use during the whole or part of the 2018 scheme year, must include that land on their 2018 Single Application and submit an application for force majeure (Form FML 1) along with your 2018 Single Application. It is also necessary to provide evidence of the efforts made/steps taken to return this land to agricultural activity to date together with an indication of when this land will come back into agricultural use for consideration. Land which will return to agricultural use within a reasonable time without intervention as a result of natural regeneration will also be considered.
Call the SAF Advisory Service
Completing your 2018 SAF is one of the most important things you will do this year and there are a range of help options available to suit you. If farmers have any questions about the eligibility of their land or the completion of their 2018 Single Application Form (SAF) they should contact the SAF Advisory Service now on 0300 200 7848 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively check out the DAERA website http://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/articles/area-based-schemes-2018-guidance-and-forms for more information and helpful videos that demonstrate how to complete your application online.