No change to BPS application date due to Covid-19 – department

The Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) application date will not be changed due to measures in relation to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus Covid-19, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

In a lengthy statement issued tonight, Friday, March 13, the department noted that it is working closely with the Department of Health and others as part of a whole-of-government response to the coronavirus.

Precautions

The department said it is taking all of the precautions necessary to protect its staff and its clients, consistent with HSE advice, but is remaining open for business, prioritising the delivery of essential services to farmers, fishermen and the food and forestry sectors.

Stressing that the BPS application date will not be changed, the department added:

Any delay in inspections or change to the application date may lead to delays in payments later in the year, and we are anxious to avoid this at all costs.

“The updating of the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) is a rolling process which will go ahead. Farmers will be updated as we proceed.”

Continuing, it was noted that the department is taking necessary steps to ensure: that producers and processors can continue to operate effectively and keep supply lines open; and that the department can operate as effectively as possible during the current pandemic.

Priorities

The Department of Agriculture outlined some of its key priorities including: keeping food and other processing facilities operational, and ensuring that payments and commercial activities – which are necessary to protect farm incomes – can continue.

It highlighted that a lot of these depend on the department’s ability to carry out its regulatory and inspection functions.

The authority stressed that it will ensure that its staff operate in accordance with protocols that follow Health Service Executive (HSE) advice.

This advice will evolve, and the department will ensure that it continues to observe best practice in all of its activities.

Subject to this advice, the department said it is committed to ensuring animal-related matters such as payment processing, TB testing, animal welfare inspections, animal identification and passport issuing, BVD testing, controls at livestock marts and animal export certification can continue to enable the business of farming to operate.

In terms of agribusiness regulation – including departmental supervision, inspection, control and certification – the department affirmed its commitment to providing the necessary services.

These will include regulatory duties in meat and milk plants, marts, breeding establishments, feed manufacturers and suppliers, egg suppliers, suppliers of animal medicines and other agri-products, among others, it was confirmed.

The department’s commitment extends to ensuring that the systems and infrastructure on which its sectors depend on a daily basis, are operating and functional, and that its laboratories are available for diagnostic services and regulatory functions.

Food supply

There is no reason for consumers to be concerned about continuity of supply of Irish food and drinks. Senior department officials met Food Drink Ireland on Wednesday, March 11, to discuss contingency planning for the food processing sector.

Food processors, along with all other businesses and employers, are implementing business continuity plans to deal with possible disruption.

There are no food safety implications arising from Covid-19, and there is no evidence that the virus can be spread through food products, the department stressed.

In the longer term, there may be significant economic impacts for Irish business, including the agri-food sector, arising from reduced demand in key markets around the world, the authority warned.

Supports

A range of supports for businesses have already been announced by the Government, including the SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme, which is co-funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

This loan scheme will make working capital available to impacted small and medium sized enterprises, including food businesses.

Continuing, a department spokesperson added:

“Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has written to Commissioner for Agriculture Wojciechowski, following the announcement from President von der Leyen of a very significant economic package to respond to the crisis, seeking to ensure that the full range of market supports available under the Common Market Organisation Regulation are available for deployment in response to any emerging market disturbance.

The department’s public offices will remain open for the present.

However, the department highlighted that it has a range of online facilities and can provide information to clients over the phone or by e mail. These services should be used where possible, and unnecessary visits to public offices should be avoided.

As always, farmers should remember to observe basic biosecurity protocols and safety rules when working on the farm.

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