New Inspection Process Delays Farm Payments Says Committee

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 23 January 2014

Reference: AGR 05/13/14

The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development today voiced concerns that a new farm inspection process has resulted in payment delays to local farmers. Members are further concerned that farmers, whose land was inspected using the new process, were not informed in advance.

The new remote sensing technology, recently introduced by the Department uses aerial imagery to examine land use and eligibility for single farm payment (SFP) and was intended to streamline and speed up payments.

DARD had indicated that farmers were not informed of inspections because if they were informed and then made changes, it could leave the farmer subject to penalties.  It is expected that the majority of all inspections will be paid by the end of February.

Committee Chairperson Paul Frew MLA said: “Over 38,000 farms in Northern Ireland receive single farm payment (SFP) and it is an essential element within the rural community and an important economic driver for local farmers.

“We are extremely concerned that, farmers were not advised that their farms would be inspected using this new remote sensing process. Advance notice would have prepared those selected, to factor in the possibility of a delay in SFP and allowed for necessary financial planning to counteract any shortfall in revenue.

Mr Frew continued: “The Committee has been supportive of the use of remote sensing as evidence elsewhere has suggested that it can actually speed up the inspection and payment process. We have written to the Minister to ask that she looks into this issue as a matter of urgency and provides reassurance to farmers who may be suffering financial hardship due to delayed payments.

Deputy Committee Chairperson Joe Byrne MLA added: “Committee Members have also been made aware that the majority of farmers affected appear to be in the same geographical locations.  Some of the farming communities that have experienced this difficulty may suffer cash flow problems.

“We realise that this is a new process and that there are bound to be some teething problems. However, we wish to ensure that these issues are addressed fully by the Minister so that they do not reoccur in the future.”

ENDS

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