Hundreds of local farmers turned out to hear Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill outline new regulations under CAP reform at a meeting in Clady last night (Thursday).
The Minister urged farmers to be prepared for the new regulations and said that her Department will do all it can to advise them on how best to make the changes work for them.
She said: “My Department is working hard to make the new schemes as easy as possible to understand, to provide you with the support that you need, to continue to reduce the risk of disallowance, and to build on the level of online claims achieved in 2014.
“While, firstly I want to ensure that the important monies that CAP reform provides are more targeted, more equitable and easily accessible, it is also important to make clear that despite my desire for a simpler CAP regime, the new schemes are greater in number and more complex. Therefore, I want to ensure that you have all the information and tools available to help you make informed decisions about your businesses.”
The roadshow is one of a number of events being held across the north.
After the Minister spoke, an official from DARD delivered a presentation which took those attending through the new reforms step by step.
Minister O’Neill said that under the Basic Payment Scheme a set of new payment entitlements will be allocated to farmers who apply and meet the eligibility conditions of the scheme. One of the key conditions is that entitlements will be allocated to the person having decision making power in relation to the agricultural activity. This is referred to as the active farmer requirement.
And she said her Department has undertaken a review of all farm businesses which submitted a Single Farm Application form in 2014 to identify businesses which may not meet the active farmer requirement and therefore may not be allocated entitlements this year. The meeting was told that where it is found that individuals have artificially created conditions to attempt to meet the criteria to access support from the CAP, they will not only be excluded from benefitting from this support but also most likely face penalties.
She said: “It is important that all farmers are prepared as the new eligibility requirements are operational. To help farm businesses prepare and make an accurate claim for payment for the new schemes my Department has recently sent farmers the most up-to-date mapping information which we hold about their business. It is in your interest to ensure that your map is up-to-date and that all ineligible areas are removed.”
Turning to the issue of young farmers, the Minister said that a Level 2 qualification in agriculture is required in order to qualify for a payment under the Young Farmers’ payment.
The Minister added: “An educational qualification provides both an incentive and a reward for young farmers and will assist in the development of a well skilled and professional industry.”
Picture: Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, SF Newry and Armagh MLAs Cathal Boylan and Mickey Brady and MEP Martina Anderson.