Forestry payment applications to go fully online

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is moving to a completely online forestry grant and premium system from January 1, 2020.

Announced by Minister of State with responsibility for forestry, Andrew Doyle, it was revealed that the system will be open for use from this November for applications for 2020 forestry premium payments which are due to be paid in early January.

The proposal was presented and agreed with stakeholders at the meeting of the Forestry Programme Implementation Group, chaired by the minister, which met this week.

Minister Doyle said: “Our online forestry payments and application system has been open since 2012 and has delivered huge benefits for our customers by making their payments easier and faster.

It also enables my department to achieve a shorter payment turnaround time.

“Moving all remaining customers online allows us to offer a faster, more efficient and transparent service as part of my department’s overall objective for the best possible customer service,” the minister added.

This initiative is part of the department’s drive to improve the online services that it provides to its customers and is aligned with the e-Government Strategy 2017-2020 objective of adopting a digital-first approach to service delivery.

The online facility to make payment applications relating to the Afforestation Grant and Premium Scheme has seen “increasing numbers availing of the online option each year” since 2012, according to the department.

The department issues forestry premium payments to the value of some €68 million each year to forest owners, with applicants currently able to submit an application for payment for a given year online from the preceding November.

Minister Doyle continued, adding: “A comprehensive communication strategy to inform all clients of the changeover is planned and we will be engaging directly with all applicants in advance.

“Officials from my department will also be available at the National Ploughing Championships to offer advice and assistance on the facility and we intend holding a series of clinics around the country where owners can be shown how to make an online application if they have not done so before.

“A helpdesk will also be in operation and will give step-by-step guidance to those accessing the system,” the minister concluded.