NI gears up for historic payment

NORTHERN IRELAND‘s farmers will soon receive statements showing their entitlements to the historic part of the single farm payment.

Under the static hybrid system of payment chosen in Northern Ireland the SFP will be made up of two parts – a historic element and a flat rate area element.

The department of agriculture has now completed the calculation of the historic element.

“There are almost 29,000 statements to go out, and the exercise will take a little over a week to complete,” said NI agriculture minister Ian Pearson.

“These statements are very important as they show what each farm business can expect to receive from 2005 onwards based on their farming pattern in the reference period 2000-2002.”

Mr Pearson explained that this was just the first step in allocating the new-style subsidies.

“The historic entitlements now being issued will be supplemented by area entitlements,” he said.

These will be created by taking approximately 20% of the total budget available for SFP in Northern Ireland and spreading it over the eligible area to give an estimated payment of around €65/ha (£45).

But DARD will not be able to confirm the final rate until September 2005, when it knows the actual amount of land declared on next year‘s IACS forms.

Under the vertical hybrid system, different groups of farmers will contribute different amounts of their historic SFP to the pool for the area payment.

For example, beef finishers will see 50% of their beef special premium and slaughter premiums retained for this purpose, while sheep producers will lose 35% to the area pool and tillage farmers 20%.

But suckler cow premium and extensification premium will be paid in full, based on historic receipts.

This is designed to shift some subsidy from the finishing to the breeding sector, to compensate for lower calf and weanling prices post-decoupling.

Farmers who believe their SFPs are too low because of force majeure, exceptional circumstances or participation in an agri-environment scheme during the reference period will be able to claim extra entitlement.

Application forms are included in the statement packs and must be returned by Nov 1.

Ulster Farmers‘ Union president Campbell Tweed urged farmers to read the SFP details and notes very carefully and to seek further assistance if necessary.

DARD will be running a series of regional workshops, starting on Oct 5 at Greenmount College, to deal with farmer enquires.

The UFU will also be holding special clinics over three weeks in its 25 group offices, starting on Oct 11.

“We have set aside enough resources to hold 1200 one-to-ones – equivalent to 10% of our membership,” said a spokesman.

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