Under the EU regulations, applications for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS)are to be submitted online. I am aware that for some people, this will be the first year that they will have engaged with the online applications process.
To help farmers to submit their application online in 2018, I have ensured the early opening for the BPS application facility in 2018. The application process in 2018 is opening over a month earlier than in 2017. This will provide more time for farmers to familiarise themselves with the online application facility and to submit their applications. 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.
Other supports such as telephone help lines and ‘How to’ guides will also be in place. As we move towards the application deadline, my Department will be in contact with farmers again to provide further details on available supports. I am committed to ensuring that the supports being put in place will ensure that all farmers are able to access these important payments.