Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland has achieved its best ever performance in making Single Farm Payments to farmers for the 2013 scheme year.

Reviewing the payment performance Minister O’Neill said: “I am delighted that my Department has risen to the challenge set by the industry and delivered a record payment performance in for the 2013 scheme year. All of the challenging targets I set were achieved or exceeded. Over 99% of claims have now been finalised and payments with a total value of £264.7million have been made to farmers. I am particularly pleased to see that all business inspected by remote sensing have had their inspection results processed by the end of April. This is two months earlier than last year and four months earlier than the year before.”

Prior to 2013, the Department’s best ever payment performance in December occurred in December 2011 when 85.3% of claims were finalised.

Emphasising the Department’s ambitions for the future, the Minister said: “I want to build on this record performance and ensure that even more farmers receive their Single Farm Payment in December 2014, but we need farmers themselves and their agents to help us with that. One specific action that farmers and agents can take now is to register with the Government Gateway for online access, so that they have the necessary details in good time to be able to complete their Single Application Form online in 2014. Paper claims mean slower payments for farmers overall.

“I would also urge farmers to take extra care to make accurate claims. I am concerned that a number of farmers did not have their payments processed quickly because they had incurred heavy penalties or even lost their SFP entirely by claiming on ineligible land, such as land with dense unmanaged rush, scrub or bog land. This was detected at inspection and it delayed their residual payment (if indeed there was a payment at all). As the Department’s new mapping and inspection control continues to operate into 2014 it will pick up more and more farmers in this position, so I would warn farmers now not to take any risks when completing their claim form as it can have serious financial consequences for their farm business. The Department is happy to advise farmers in any doubt about the eligibility of their land.”