Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has highlighted the high proportion of Single Farm Payments (SFP) cases that will be paid by the end of February this year.
A total of 36,817 payments have been finalised, representing 96% of all claimants, and over £255.9million by value, which exceeds the Department’s February targets by a considerable margin. Over 1,340 inspection cases will have been paid, which is the highest number ever at this point in the year (62.6%) and many more will follow in the early part of March. These figures include 400 inspections by remote sensing where payments are now flowing quickly to farmers’ accounts.
The Minister said: “The use of control with remote sensing has contributed significantly to helping DARD make faster payments in 2013 in a scheme year when there was major change to systems as a result of the introduction of a new mapping control. In response to the high standard required by the Commission, we have used our experience from 2012 to build new robust systems with increased automation to improve scheme controls. Had only traditional inspections in the field been used this year, given the Commission’s requirement that payments cannot be released until all controls are finalised, the Department could not have paid so many farmers so quickly.”
The Minister also recognised the importance of fine-tuning communication with farmers about remote sensing inspections. She said: “For 2014, I am committed to communicating more effectively with farmers who have been subject to an inspection, so that they find out in advance of their expected date of Single Farm Payment. However, notification will be given within the regulatory constraints surrounding advance notification of on-the-spot controls.
“Whilst remote sensing is a relatively new method of inspection for the Department, it has already proved itself as a key instrument for the early completion of inspections and as a mechanism to speed up payments to farmers.”