The Department of Agriculture Food and The Marine announced during the week that the processing of this year’s payments are ahead of schedule.
It is expected that payments for the BPS/Greening schemes will be made in a timely fashion, unlike the GLAS payment debacle.
Pat McCormack gave the update while speaking at a meeting of the Farmers Charter.
Mr., McCormack said that farmers should be encouraged by the news but warned that all final judgements should be retained until the payments are actually made on time.
He continued by saying that Autumn is a time where farmers receive hefty bills and said it is vitally important that ANC payments are made in early September and BPS payments by October 16th.
He said all farmers must receive it by then and should receive an advance payment of at least 70%.
This he says is “permitted under EU regulations” and added that “we want a maximum amount possible paid to farmers in the first instalment”.
He said this is important to ensure that “bills are paid and no extra interest is accrued on outstanding debts”.
Mr. Mc Cormack also added that the ICMSA have stressed the importance of the timing of payments to the Department, and also the importance of informing farmers of problems/errors as quickly as possible.
He continued, “No issue is a cause of more complaint or frustration then farmers getting get correspondence from the Department close to - or even after - the payment date citing issues that are holding up their payment and it is essential that all such queries are issued to farmers before 1 September. We cannot have a situation, for instance, where farmers are told their application is gone for digitisation in October or November and so will delay their payment. These issues or similar problems need to be resolved now”.
In relation to the Department’s proposal to move to an exclusively online system in 2018, Mr. McCormack noted the fact that around 17,500 farmers had used the paper-based system in 2017.
This he concluded highlighted the challenges around this ambitious 2018 target and it might just have to be accepted that moving to a completely online system so quickly is going to present severe practical difficulties.