Submitting information online is causing anxiety for older farmers
ICMSA are calling for assistance for older farmers as the Department of Agriculture says it will only accept online applications for 2018 payments.
Speaking following a meeting with the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine, the Deputy President of ICMSA has said that the move to exclusively online application must translate into an elimination of payment delays experienced in previous years and a much speedier identification of errors and rectifications that will enable outstanding queries to be dealt with well in advance of the payment date of mid-October.
Lorcan McCabe said that the exclusively online system will pose significant challenges for some farmers - whether due to issues such as poor or non-existent broadband or lack of familiarity with online systems - and ICMSA will insist that no farmer should lose out on any payment as a result of this compulsory change.
The ICMSA Deputy President said his association assumed that the application process was likely to open earlier this year and the Department need to intensively engage with the approximately 16,000 farmers who have applied ‘by paper’ up to now and every assistance must be given to those individuals so as to ensure their timely payment next autumn.
Mr. McCabe noted that these payments represent a huge percentage of total farm income and their prompt payment is critical in terms of meeting bills and loan repayments that traditionally fall due in the Autumn period. He acknowledged that the online system has improved year -on-year in terms of the BPS/ Greening/ ANC applications and farmers have responded by switching to this system based on a clear commitment from the Department that payments will be made on time.
“As regards 2018, we think it essential that every farmer is notified of any problem with their application by 1 September at the very latest and that all problems are resolved by Mid-October. Farmers should be able to check the status of their application online and when an application is submitted - and, also, when it’s fully processed - a farmer should be notified by text or email that their application is submitted and then ‘through the system’ and payment will issue on the dates as per the Farmers Charter. If this sensible policy was implemented it would also reduce the volume of phone calls farmers have to make to the Department.”
There’s a lot of anxiety for the 16,000 farmers who have been making paper applications and the Department should write to these farmers as soon as possible setting out their options for 2018 and account must be taken of this transition when processing payments in the Autumn. This is a very significant change for some of the older farmers and every assistance must be given to these farmers to adapt to the new system”, concluded Mr. McCabe.