Max number Single Farm Payments must be made without delay

Friday, 22 November, 2013

The Ulster Farmers’ Union has welcomed the Department of Agriculture’s announcement that they aim to pay 85% of Single Farm Payments (SFP) in December but says it would like to have seen the department “aim higher”, especially given the very tough year farmers have had.

UFU President Harry Sinclair said; “Last year DARD paid 83% of Single Farm Payments (SFP) in December and this year they have said that they intend to improve on this by 2%. While we would have liked to have seen them aim higher in 2013, it is still welcome news. Undeniably cash flow has been a major issue for many farmers this year so any improvement is better than none but it is now up to DARD to ensure they deliver.

“We are particularly pleased to hear that DARD is on track to tighten the payment window for inspection cases. Last November DARD aimed to make these payments by May 2013, however, in many cases it was July before farmers received their payments. This time around, DARD is aiming to have most inspection cases paid by the end of February 2014 which will be a marked improvement if they deliver on it.

 “Farmers across the EU have faced significant financial pressure this year, which makes the Single Farm Payment more important than ever. Recognising this, the EU Commission ruled that advanced part payments of SFP could be made in October this year. Many EU countries, including the Republic of Ireland, were able to take advantage of this but disappointingly, despite calls from the UFU, Northern Ireland was not one of them. However, farmers can take some comfort in the fact that this year’s Euro/Sterling exchange rate is working in our favour and the Agriculture Minister’s decision not to apply voluntary modulation this year resulting in around a 10% net gain for most SFP claimants.

“Even with DARD’s improved SFP targets, Northern Ireland is still ‘off the pace’ in comparison to other countries. Further improvements can and must be made. To this end, the UFU are encouraged by DARD’s future plans and we will work with them in this process. However, DARD remains ultimately responsible for ensuring that every effort is made to allow the maximum number of Single Farm Payments to be issued in a timely manner.”