The Single Farm Payment is one of the most important payments received by farmers each year. The amount of funding available for payment to Irish farmers under the 2011 and 2012 Schemes was €1.263 billion and €1.255 billion respectively. These funds were used to pay the Single Farm Payment and the Article 68 Schemes namely the Grassland Sheep Scheme, the Dairy Efficiency Programme and the Burren Farming for Conservation Programme.
Given the level of the funding involved annually and the importance of the monies paid to farmers’ income, it is absolutely vital that all of the funding available from the EU is fully drawn down and utilised. Therefore, it is my priority that payments be maximised, both for the benefit of the individual farmers concerned and, on a broader level, the benefit of the country in general.
Essentially, the linear reductions to payments under both the 2011 and 2012 Single Payment Schemes are necessary in order to ensure that the National Ceilings for the Scheme for the years in question are respected.
However, in pursuing this objective, the budget for the 2011 Scheme was marginally exceeded and the projections for the budget for the 2012 Scheme are similar. In light of this, the only prudent course of action is to apply linear reductions to both years’ payments. These reductions, at a rate of 0.45% on the payments made, are being applied to the balancing payments now issuing under the 2012 Scheme. The reductions are applicable to all Single Payment Scheme beneficiaries.
There are technical issues involved in relation to the overshoot of the National Ceiling, in that under the EU Commission requirements it is necessary payments under earlier SPS schemes must be accounted in the year in which they are paid. My Department’s officials are pursuing this matter with the Commission.
Turning to payments in respect of the 2012 SPS Scheme, I am delighted with the level of payments that have been made by my Department since balancing payments commenced less than two weeks ago. In what has been a difficult year for farmers due to the impact of the weather conditions, over €1,193 million was paid to 121,290 farmers (or over 98% of all applicants). Payments continue to be made as soon as cleared of errors and fully processed.