Agricultural consultants update their protocols, as major farm deadlines loom

“We are reaffirming our commitment to assist Irish farmers as important deadlines approach, whilst continuing to work in line with HSE [Health Service Executive] and Government guidelines.”

That was the message today (Sunday, March 29) from the Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA).

ACA president Tom Canning explained: “As an important service in the agricultural industry, ACA members are on target to submit all applications for the Basic Payment Scheme [BPS] and associated applications before May 15…and other deadlines such as the Nitrates derogation on April 24.”

He added: “Our members continue to abide by HSE recommendations in our role as farm advisors during the current coronavirus crisis.

Members’ offices are closed to the general public, but their businesses are operating as best they can under the current circumstances.

“At any other time of the year our members could reduce their working hours but, regrettably, this crisis coincides with the most important date in the farming calendar – the BPS deadline of May 15.”

Consultants ‘playing their part’

Canning went on to say that the ACA and its members will play their part in “ensuring there are no delays to clients’ payments later this year”.

He said: “We have been working very closely with the department since the coronavirus restrictions were put in place. We fully support all efforts to keep the critical agricultural sector operational, whilst abiding by Government recommendations.

Over 130,000 BPS applications must be submitted by May 15. ACA members will be involved in the submission of 55,000 of those.

Canning concluded by saying: “We are currently compiling and proposing solutions to a number of challenges that we envisage over the next number of weeks and months. We will present them to the department within days.

“We will ensure that no farmer will be forgotten over the next few weeks and, in the meantime, everyone’s health and well-being is of utmost importance.”

Updated ACA guidance now states the following:
  • ACA members’ offices must continue to remain closed to the public until further notice;
  • The priority for ACA members is to work from home or remotely if at all possible;
  • Where members and their staff must attend their workplaces, health and safety guidelines (as recommended by the HSE) must be strictly implemented;
  • Pre-arranged essential meetings with clients should be postponed. This measure will be reviewed when current restrictions are assessed on April 12;
  • All farm visits must be postponed – immediately. Again, this measure will be reviewed when current restrictions are assessed on April 12;
  • Communications with clients should be completed via phone-calls and emails, until further notice.