“Mindful of the benefits to farmers, particularly the reduction in paperwork, but also the reduction in the level of clerical errors that ultimately delay payments, my department has concentrated on the ongoing rollout and improvement of online services for farmers.”
He said the department is committed to reducing the level of paperwork, the time needed to fill in applications and at the same time to reduce errors allowing for speedier service delivery.
“With specific regard to the direct aid schemes, including single payment and disadvantaged areas, which together account for payments in excess of €1.5bn annually, the department’s iNet system is constantly upgraded,” the minister noted.
According to the department, there is a variety of benefits in using iNet, including an online mapping element, which allows farmers, or their agents, who need to submit maps to the department, to do so through iNet, thereby dispensing with the need to submit paper maps.
According to its recent figures, in excess of 13,000 maps were submitted online in 2013. The department noted other benefits of iNet include immediate acknowledgement of receipt of applications, the significant reduction in the ability to make simple clerical errors, due to the built-in system of controls and the ability to view maps and correspondence.
It said in 2013, more than 73,000 applications were submitted online, representing a tenfold increase since iNet was launched.
The department is keen to stress there is no down-side in registering for online either individually, or through an agent, as farmers still retain the right to submit a traditional paper application, should they so choose. The minister noted, however, that he is convinced that those who do sign-up will be readily impressed with the systems user-friendliness.
In addition, the department is running a campaign to encourage more farmers to sign-up to its text messaging service, with a mail campaign having been launched recently.
“Currently some 70,000 SFP applicants are signed-up this service, which during 2013 was used to advise farmers of the SFP closing date, receipt of individual SFP applications, payments, Nitrates and so on. The benefits are very clear. There is no down-side to the service, so I would strongly urge all those not yet signed-up to do so immediately,” the minister added.