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O‘Neill determined to improve Single Farm Payment process

16 April, 2012 - by Michelle O'Neill

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill today outlined a range of measures to help improve the Single Farm Payment (SFP) process.The Minister said that whilst her Department was meeting its targets on paying SFP, she was concerned about the number of payments still to be made. She explained:

 “I am conscious of the current economic climate and I recognise that later SFP payments can add to the difficult financial situations that some claimants find themselves in.

“I want to drive forward improvements in this area and have asked my officials to find ways to speed up the rate at which SFP claims are processed and paid. New improvement measures, which include increased staff resources, IT improvements and adjusted payment processes, are now all in place and indications are that these are helping to increase the number of cases being complete.”

The Minister also referred to a series of meetings she is having with local banks, in order to make them aware of the later SFP payments faced by some farmers. She said: “Over the next few weeks I am meeting with senior representatives from our main local banks. I will be asking them to recognise the difficulties that those farmers still awaiting their 2011 SFP may be facing. I anticipate that the majority of 2011 inspection cases will be completed by the end of July, and I appeal to the banks to show flexibility to those farmers still awaiting payment during this time.”

The Minister continued: “The 2012 Single Application Form (SAF) process has just opened and includes the option to complete applications online. This will automatically check applications for errors and omissions as the form is being completed, reducing the time spent processing and checking claims after they are submitted. In addition to this a series of Land Eligibility Workshops is currently being held across the north to provide additional guidance to farmers to help with the accurate completion of SAF. I have also asked that inspections for 2012 are started as early as practical to aid earlier processing.”

Improved maps should also help improve the process for 2012 and future years. The Minister said:

“Some of the initiatives we are implementing in the EU Compliance Programme will drive improvements in future years. We are issuing improved maps this year to each person who submitted a SAF in 2011. We have made these maps available online and hard copies are being sent to each claimant. If you haven’t received your map yet, you can access it online or alternatively your local DARD Direct office could provide one for you. These maps should help farmers to make accurate claims for SFP. The more accurate claims are, the fewer queries and problems will arise and this in turn should help speed up payment processing. This year we are also testing the use of satellite imagery for the first time. I am hopeful this will be a success and deliver faster processing benefits in the future.”

The Minister concluded:

“I appreciate that SFP is an essential part of farm incomes. I am therefore determined to ensure that the measures I have outlined are successful at speeding up processing of SFP claims.”

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