I am very aware of the significance to farmers and the wider rural economy of the payments that issue to farmers from my Department under a range of schemes. With this in mind, my Department continues to issue payments under these schemes as a matter of priority.
Under the 2018 Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC) Scheme some 100,828 applicants hold eligible designated lands. The ANC Scheme is subject to a range of eligibility and compliance criteria such as having successfully fulfilled all scheme requirements. To date some 91,190 applicants have been paid a total of €219.2m under the 2018 ANC Scheme.
It is not possible, at this point, to accurately ascertain the total number of applicants who will be paid under the Scheme. In particular, this is due to the fact that individual farmers who have yet to meet their stocking density requirements may or may not do so by the end of the year depending on their farming practice/decisions.
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 120,607 farmers which represents 98.3% of all eligible farmers. Twice weekly pay runs will take place to ensure all cases that become clear for payment are paid as quickly as possible. In cases where material required in response to queries from my Department is outstanding, I would urge farmers to respond to any outstanding queries at their earliest convenience.
Payments under the 2018 National Reserve and the Young Farmers Scheme have also commenced alongside payment of the 2018 BPS balancing payment.
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 which represent’s 99% of eligible applications. This was the first payment run for the 2018 scheme year and additional cases will be paid as they become clear following resolution of outstanding queries such as on reference numbers and completion of actions.
The processing of the Organic Farming Scheme payments will commence this week. Validations on applications are currently being carried out and it is estimated that 1,160 participants will receive an advance payment in the first payment run. Payment runs will continue thereafter on a weekly basis.
In December, further payments will commence on schedule under the Beef Data and Genomics Programme and the Protein Aid scheme. Payments under the TAMS II capital investment scheme are also continuing, with €94.8m paid in respect of 6,503 claims to date.
To date, 40,841 GLAS participants have received their 2018 advance payment. This equates to over 96% of eligible GLAS participants. A number of cases remain ineligible for payment as the GLAS participant and/or their Advisor need to take action. I would encourage any GLAS applicant with outstanding obligations, such as the submission of a Nutrient Management Plan, GLAS Training or finalisation of a Commonage Management Plan to speak to their Advisor and ensure that this work is completed as a priority. Without the submission of all the required information, these applicants will remain ineligible for further GLAS payments.
In relation to AEOS, 1514 participants have been paid their 2018 Advance payment. A further 286 cases have passed validation and are due to be paid shortly. 321 cases continue to be processed.