Thursday, 26 April 2018
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Agriculture Scheme Applications
18. To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if flexibility will be allowed for farmers who lack adequate broadband to file applications online to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18258/18]
Under the EU regulations, 2018 is the first year that all applications for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) are to be submitted online. Recent years have seen significant growth in the number of farmers applying for the BPS online, and this is reflective of the range of benefits that online application brings for farmers.
Among the benefits available to online applicants is the availability of preliminary checks for online applications. These preliminary checks allow online applicants to be advised of certain errors at an early stage and to correct any such issues without penalty.
These preliminary checks have proved very successful in previous years, and they represent one of the many advantages for farmers in making their BPS applications online.
From 2018 all the elements of the Direct Payments Schemes (BPS, Greening, Young Farmers Scheme, National Reserve, and transferring of entitlements) are online. This helps to ensure that the Department can process all applications under these schemes as efficiently as possible.
I am aware that for some people, this is the first year that they will have engaged with the online applications process. To help farmers to submit their application online in 2018, I ensured the early opening for the BPS application facility in 2018. The application process in 2018 opened over a month earlier than in 2017. This provides more time for farmers to familiarise themselves with the online application facility and to submit their applications. My Department contacted these farmers in advance of the online application facility opening advising them of the requirement to submit online in 2018.
Officials from my Department have also subsequently notified farmers of a range of supports available to applicants, including a series of BPS clinics in locations throughout the country. These clinics have been running since early April and enable farmers to sit with an official from my Department who guide them through the process to enable submission of the application online by the farmer.
Further supports such as telephone help lines and ‘How to’ guides are also in place. As we move towards the application deadline, my Department will be in contact with these farmers again to provide further details on these supports. These supports ensure that all farmers are able to access these important payments.
I would urge all farmers to avail of the opportunity to apply for the BPS via the online system. It is open for farmers to do this either as individuals or through an agent. Online applications allow my Department to continue to improve on the delivery to farmers of essential payments under schemes such as BPS and the Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme.