Thursday, 6 December 2018

Questions (54)

Bobby Aylward


54. Deputy Bobby Aylward asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to ensure that farmers experience no unnecessary delays in direct payments, which are crucial for agribusinesses (details supplied); if a modernised advance payments system will be introduced to assist farmers in situations in which the delays are caused by his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51042/18]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I am very aware of the significance to farmers, agri-business and the wider rural economy of the payments that issue to farmers from my Department under schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), GLAS, TAMS, the Sheep Welfare Scheme, and the Knowledge Transfer (KT) programme.

Payments under the 2018 ANC scheme commenced, on schedule, during the week commencing 17th September 2018 with 77,000 farmers being paid €185.6 million. This was an increase of 2,000 farmers and €25 million on the first tranche of payments in September 2017. Regular pay runs are in place to pay farmers as they fulfil the Scheme's eligibility requirements, and to date €219.2m has issued to some 91,190 farmers under the 2018 Scheme.

In relation to the 2018 BPS, the European Commission agreed to my request for a higher advance payment of 70% under the 2018 Scheme. This is an increase on the standard 50% rate allowed for under the EU regulations. Payments under 2018 BPS and Greening commenced on schedule on 16 October with payments worth €732 million issuing to 113,000 farmers.

This represented an increase over the 111,000 farmers paid at the same stage in 2017, and some 93% of eligible applicants for the BPS were paid in this first tranche. The success of our move to full online applications this year has helped us to deliver further efficiencies in the processing of payments which are of direct benefit to farmers.

The balancing payments for BPS and Greening also commenced on schedule on 3 December, bringing the total paid under BPS and Greening to €1.2bn to 121,000 farmers. Payments under the 2018 National Reserve and the Young Farmers Scheme have also commenced alongside payment of the 2018 BPS balancing payment.

The European Commission also agreed to my request for an increase to 85% advance payment rates under a number of CAP Pillar II Rural Development schemes. This increased rate applies to GLAS and the Sheep Welfare Scheme.

To date, 39,665 GLAS participants have received their 2018 advance payment. This amounts to almost €140m paid since payments commenced on 14 November and equates to 96% of eligible cases paid. The majority of outstanding payments require action on behalf of the GLAS participants or their advisor such as the submission of a Commonage Management Plan or Nutrient Management Plan, the completion of GLAS training or another form of documentation. My Department is working closely with GLAS farmers and their advisors to ensure that outstanding payments issue as quickly as possible when these requirements are met. I would urge all participants to contact their advisors to ensure that their application can pass through validations. GLAS payments will continue to issue on a weekly basis.

Advance payment for the Sheep Welfare Scheme also issued on time at the end of November with €15.1 million paid to 18,600 participants.

Payments in respect of year 2 of the Knowledge Transfer programme commenced in October 2018 in line with the Farmers Charter commitment, with almost €10 million now issued to over 15,000 farmers. Facilitator payments also commenced in late November.

Payments under the Beef Data and Genomics Programme, the Organic Farming Scheme and the Protein Aid scheme are all also due to commence in December.

Applications for payment for work done under the TAMS II investment Scheme are made via the online application system. Provided that all the required supporting material is provided with the application for payment there are no delays with processing the claims for payment in the Department.

To date €94.8m has been paid in respect of 6,503 TAMS II payment claims. Claims continue to be processed on an ongoing basis.

My Department continues to process payments under these schemes as a matter of priority, to ensure that these vital supports are delivered to farmers in the most timely and efficient manner possible.