NI farmers unlikely to benefit from EU vote on direct payments, UFU

The View from Northern Ireland: The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has welcomed a unanimous vote by member states on an European Commission proposal that would allow member states to pay up to 50 per cent of farmers’ direct payment for 2013 as of 16 October, rather than wait till 1 December, provided the usual administrative checks are made.

However, UFU President Harry Sinclair said that it was very unlikely that Northern Ireland’s farmers will benefit from this golden opportunity as the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) continues to insist that it is not in a position to issue part payments early.

In a statement issued this morning Sinclair said: “The EU Commission has recognised that the past 12 months have been incredibly hard and has provided a mechanism that would help to alleviate some of the cash-flow pressure farmers are experiencing. Member states have supported this and it is a real shame that it is unlikely that we will be able to benefit from this sensible decision.”

Earlier this year, as part of the Northern Ireland Fodder Taskforce, the UFU urged DARD to take the necessary steps to ensure that they would be able to issue advance payments this autumn.

Sinclair continued: “We believe DARD could have done more to put itself in a position where it could issue advance part payments in October. However, at the very minimum, we expect that the minister and her department will make every effort to ensure that there is a significant improvement in the number of Single Farm Payments paid in December 2013. This has been a hard enough year for farmers and they cannot afford to have any delay to their direct payments.

“However, it would be a momentous achievement if DARD were able to complete the necessary administration checks in record time and to issue part payments in October. It is a challenge I hope they choose to accept.”

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