£200million in Single Farm Payments in December
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill MLA, has announced the payment processing targets for 2011 Single Farm Payments (SFP) and 2012 Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowances (LFACA).
Outlining the targets, Minister O’Neill said: “My Department will begin to pay out 2011 Single Farm Payments in December. We are aiming to pay 83% of claims in December and a total of 90% by the end of January. The payments will be paid into farmers’ bank accounts from around 12 December and the vast majority will be completed before Christmas.
“I am pleased to say that this year’s exchange rate is slightly more favourable for those farmers who receive their payments in sterling. The December payments alone will be worth in the region of £200million and will provide important support to farm incomes.”
Minister O’Neill explained that EU rules permit DARD to make payments only when eligibility has been fully established and that this means that not all claims will be paid immediately.
She said: “EU rules require my Department to carry out checks to all claims to verify their eligibility and assess the correct amount due before a payment can be released. Many of the cases that we cannot pay immediately, particularly those with on-farm inspections, have identified land eligibility concerns and changes to farm maps and therefore require complex assessments which take time to clear. Claims with unresolved queries and which involve inspections will be paid later in the payment schedule. In a number of other cases we cannot process a payment because the farmer has to provide us with bank account details or because probate is awaited. I would urge farmers who have not already done so, to supply their bank account details without further delay.”
Highlighting the work being carried out to upgrade the arrangements for recording and notifying inspection findings, the Minister continued: “My Department has been working to introduce improved systems to electronically record and notify inspections findings and speed up the transfer of inspection findings to Orchard House. It has taken time for the new systems to become fully established, but I am pleased to say that the necessary work has now largely been completed and that inspection reports are being transferred to Orchard House for assessment.”
The Minister also confirmed that payments due in 2012 under the Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances Scheme (LFACA) will begin to issue in early March 2012.
In conclusion Minister O’Neill said: “Farmers should avoid phoning Orchard House about their payment unless it is absolutely necessary over the course of the next two months. This frees up the maximum number of staff to work on getting payments out instead of taking time out to investigate when specific payments might be made. If a call to Orchard House is unavoidable, we would appeal to callers to be patient, as phone lines are likely to be busy at peak periods.”