Online BPS application supports ‘must be rolled out as a matter of urgency’

Support measures for farmers moving to online Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) applications in 2018 must be rolled out as a matter of urgency, according to Fianna Fail TD Eugene Murphy.

This year represents the first time – due to EU regulations – that all BPS applications must be submitted online.

Representing the Roscommon/Galway constituency, Deputy Murphy has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to roll out a series of planned BPS clinics as soon as possible in a bid to help farmers make the transition to online applications.

Earlier this month, Minister Creed announced the opening of the BPS application facility – which opened over a month earlier than in 2017. The closing date for applications has been confirmed as Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

Also Read: Basic Payment Scheme application process opens

The online application process is a “very daunting experience for some farmers” and may represent the first time they have engaged with the system, Deputy Murphy said.

The Fianna Fail TD has called on the minister to roll out the BPS clinics “as a matter of urgency and on a wide scale”.

“The minister has indicated that these clinics will enable farmers to sit with an official from the department, who will guide them through the process of submitting their application online there and then.

“I understand that the location details in relation to these clinics are currently being finalised,” he said.

‘Special concessions’

Deputy Murphy called for special concessions to be introduced for farmers in areas where broadband connectivity is poor.

“There are families, farmers and businesses throughout rural areas including my constituency of Roscommon/Galway who are extremely worried that they will never get the broadband they need.

How will farmers be able complete applications for schemes online if they don’t have proper broadband?

Additional supports

In a recent response to a parliamentary question, Minister Creed explained that the BPS application process was opened early to provide more time to farmers to familiarise themselves with the online application facility and to submit their applications.

Commenting on the issue, the minister said: “My department has already contacted those farmers who applied in paper form in 2017 advising them of the new requirement to submit online in 2018, to provide them with guidance material in relation to starting their online application, and to advise them that further supports will be rolled out by my department in the coming weeks.

“Officials from my department will implement a range of supports to farmers over the coming weeks, including a series of BPS clinics in locations throughout the country.

These clinics have proved very successful in recent years, and will be available on a much wider scale this year.

“The format will enable farmers to sit with an official from my department who will guide them through the process of submitting their application online there and then.

“The location details in relation to these clinics are currently being finalised. In the meantime, officials from my department have been present at the ongoing series of CAP consultation meetings around the country to assist any farmers with queries in relation to online applications,” he said.

Other supports such as telephone help lines and ‘How to’ guides will also be in place, Minister Creed added.

“I am committed to ensuring that the supports being put in place will ensure that all farmers are able to access these important payments,” he concluded.