Farm assist is a means-tested income support scheme for farmers. To qualify for the payment, a customer must be a farmer, farming land in the State, aged between 18 and 66 and satisfy a means test. The annual farm assist review form is a necessary part of the normal review process for these customers.
Following the Comptroller and Auditor General examination of the Farm Assist scheme in 2014 and the recommendations arising from that report the Department in response reviewed the annual declaration Farm 12 form. The revised form provides for a detailed annual review process which includes seeking information regarding the income generated and the operating costs of the farm all of which are required as part of the annual review process.
The means test for farm assist takes account of all income sources with certain disregards applicable to specific income sources. Different rules apply to income from farming and other forms of self-employment. Income from certain schemes such as the Green Low Carbon Agri Environment Scheme (GLAS), income from employment and income from property and capital are taken into account. An examination of farm outgoings is also included in the assessment process.
Income and expenditure figures for the preceding year are generally used as an indicator of the expected position in the following year. Details of any exceptional circumstances are also taken into account so as to ensure that the assessment accurately reflects the current situation.
The annual farm assist review form is kept under ongoing review by my officials.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.