‘No excuses left for BPS payment delays’

With a total of 87% of farmers submitting their application to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) online in 2017, Pat McCormack, Deputy President of ICMSA, has said that this must translate into the elimination of payment delays.

Online applications should allow for the quicker identification of errors and rectifications – enabling outstanding queries to be dealt with well in advance of the payment dates, McCormack said.

Upcoming payment dates for Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) and BPS/Greening are mid September and October 16, respectively.

McCormack pointed out how important these payments have become to farmers, representing a “huge percentage” of total farm income. Their prompt payment is “critical” in terms of meeting bills and loan repayments, that traditionally fall due around the autumn.

Farmers have responded by switching to the online system on the basis of a clear commitment from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine that payments will be made on time.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed confirmed 13,000 extra farmers made the move online, bringing the total of online applications to 113,600.

However, McCormack noted that a certain number of farmers have experienced long delays in their payments, despite this commitment from the department, resulting in “serious implications and stress for the farmers involved”.

“It is essential that every farmer is notified of any problem with their application by September 1, at the very latest, and that all problems are resolved in advance of the ANC payment date,” McCormack insisted.

Getting a letter relating to a problem in October or November is “hugely frustrating” for farmers. Instead, farmers should be able to check the status of their application online. When an application is fully processed, a farmer should be notified by text or email that their application is ‘through the system’, he explained.

“If this sensible policy was implemented, it would reduce the volume of phone calls farmers have to make to the department,” McCormack said.

The ICMSA Deputy President also commented on preliminary checks, saying: “Where a response has not been received from a farmer by June 17, a final text should issue to the farmer so that he or she has the opportunity to resolve the matter before the closing date, June 20.

“The preliminary check system specifically allows for errors to be corrected without penalty, and it is important that the department makes every effort to get farmers to respond on time.”

McCormack has reminded farmers that they themselves must avail of the opportunity to resolve any genuine errors without penalty.