The deputy president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack, has said with recent BPS/Greening application numbers soaring past 87% that issues surrounding delayed payments must be rectified. He said the delays experienced by farmers in recent years much be sorted and a quicker system for processing applications put in place.
He also added that any issues or queries regarding applications should be dealt with as soon as possible and well in advance of the mid-September payment date for ANC schemes and the later October date for BPS/Greening schemes.
Mc. Cormack said that these payments are now considered vital to farmers with the payments now representing a large portion of farmer’s total farm income. He said farmers have now come to rely upon these payments for payment of bills and loans that usually hit farmers around Autumn.
The online systems for applying for these schemes has improved on last year Mc Cormack says, and he says it has resulted in farmers moving over to the online system. He says this transition has been made by a high number of farmers on the grounds that the Department are committed to making payments on time.
He also mentioned that he observed that for a large number of farmers this has not yet happened, with some experiencing extremely long delays in receiving payments. This he says has caused serious stress for farmers and increased their worries for the harsher times ahead.
Mr. Mc Cormack said “As regards 2017, it is essential that every farmer is notified of any problem with their application by 1 September at the very latest and that all problems are resolved in advance of the ANC payment date. Getting a letter relating to a problem in October or November is hugely frustrating for farmers and this has to be avoided in 2017. Farmers should be able to check the status of their application online and when an application is fully processed, a farmer should be notified by text or email that their application is ‘through the system’ and payment will issue on the dates as per the Farmers Charter. If this sensible policy was implemented, it would also reduce the volume of phone calls farmers have to make to the Department”.
The Deputy President also called for a preliminary check system to be put in place to help resolve dual claims, overclaims and overlaps early into the application process. He feels this will then help eliminate penalties imposed on farmers with regards these issues. He said “Where a farmer responds to a preliminary check query, it is important that the mapping and digitisation issues are dealt with at an early stage and – similarly - a farmer should be notified when the issue has been resolved. Where a response has not been received from a farmer by 17 June, a final text should issue to the farmer so that he or she has the opportunity to resolve the matter before the closing date.”
He concluded by saying “The preliminary check system specifically allows for errors to be corrected without penalty and it is important that the Department makes every effort to get farmers to respond on time and that the farmers themselves take the opportunity available to them to resolve genuine errors without penalty”.