O’Neill hosts Ballymena CAP Reform meeting

editorial image

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has urged farmers across mid-Antrim to be prepared for the new regulations brought in under CAP reform.

The Minister said her Department will do all it can to advise farmers on the best way to make the changes work for them.

At a public meeting in the Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena, the Minister said: “My Department is working hard to make the new schemes as easy as possible to understand, to provide you with the support that you need, to continue to reduce the risk of disallowance, and to build on the level of online claims achieved in 2014.

“While, firstly I want to ensure that the important monies that CAP reform provides are more targeted, more equitable and easily accessible, it is also important to make clear that despite my desire for a simpler CAP regime, the new schemes are greater in number and more complex. Therefore, I want to ensure that you have all the information and tools available to help you make informed decisions about your businesses.”

Around 200 people turned out for the information evening on CAP reform at the Tullyglass Hotel which is one of a number of events being held across the north. After the Minister spoke, an official from DARD delivered a presentation which took those attending through the new reforms step by step.

Minister O’Neill said that under the Basic Payment Scheme a set of new payment entitlements will be allocated to farmers who apply and meet the eligibility conditions of the scheme. One of the key conditions is that entitlements will be allocated to the person having decision making power in relation to the agricultural activity. This is referred to as the active farmer requirement.

And she said her Department has undertaken a review of all farm businesses which submitted a Single Farm Application Form (SAF) in 2014 to identify businesses which will not likely to meet the active farmer requirement and therefore would not be issued with a SAF this year.

The meeting was told that where it is found that individuals have artificially created conditions to attempt to meet the criteria to access support from the CAP, they will not only be excluded from benefiting from this support but also most likely face penalties.

She said: “It is important that all farmers are prepared as the new eligibility requirements are operational. To help farm businesses prepare and make an accurate claim for payment for the new schemes my Department has recently sent farmers the most up-to-date mapping information which we hold about their business. It is in your interest to ensure that your map is up-to-date and that all ineligible areas are removed and not claimed for payment.”

Turning to the issue of young farmers, the Minister said that a Level 2 qualification in agriculture is required in order to qualify for a payment under the Young Farmers’ payment.

The Minister added: “An educational qualification provides both an incentive and a reward for young farmers and will assist in the development of a well skilled and professional industry.”