National Beef Association
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Press Release - NBA Northern Ireland angered by Minister's comments about delays to Single Farm Payments

19th April 2012

Region: National

NBA Northern Ireland angered by Minister’s comments about delays to Single Farm Payment.

With up to 400 Northern Irish farmers yet to receive their Single Farm Payment, the NBA is angered by comments from Minister O’Neill, Minister of Agriculture, urging banks to be “more lenient”, rather than calling upon her own Department to solve the problem and make the over-due payments.

The delays appear to be the result of an increased level of inspections, an adjusted payment process and a new mapping system.

Oisin Murnion, NBA Northern Ireland Chairman, says: “We appreciate banks co-operation with the farming community and are grateful for the support they offer. But Minister O’Neill’s comment shows a lack of consideration and encourages people into more debt while they are waiting for money that DARD has the ability to pay out.

“There does not appear to be any guarantee that the changes this year will help in the future, and in the meantime farmers who were selected for inspection are still waiting for their payments and suffering immense hardship.

“DARD need to straighten up their act and pay the farmers their SFP instead of creating spiralling circles of debt that are only going to get worse if they do not get paid.”

The NBA is also hugely concerned about the very late payment to farmers in the Northern Ireland Countryside Management Scheme and believes some participants may still be waiting for their 2010 claim to be paid, as well as 2011.

The NBA has written to DARD’s Countryside Management Team but is yet to receive the requested confirmation about the percentage of 2010 claims paid or the likely payment date for 2011. Clarification regarding the 2012 scheme has also been asked for, as the NBA has reason to believe new schedules are being issued yet again and that these will not be made available until very close to the deadline.

Mr Murnion says: “The NBA is concerned administration of the scheme has delayed annual payments. Farmers who claimed in 2010 were only paid late in 2011 and we are led to believe that no inspections have started on the 2011 claims.

“It is again placing farmers in the position where they have to borrow from the banks while DARD sits on their money. How can people plan or budget when they do not know how long they have to wait to be paid for the work they have already done? No business can run profitably without forward financial planning. And farmers should not be expected to deliver conservation projects and other public goods and not get treated fairly.

“To make things worse, we have been informed that existing NICMS participants are to receive new schedules for this year’s schemes, which will be the third schedule they will have received. In 2009 several farmers only received their schedules on the Saturday before their application form had to be submitted the following week. It would appear this is going to be repeated again, which is totally unacceptable.”

For more information contact:

Oisin Murnion  NBA NI Chairman  02841 765082  07739 632048
Joanne Pugh  NBA Assistant Director 01772 734707  07579 009648