Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

SFP application form errors prompt alarm

Department insist problems are resticted to a number of cases

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Serious problems with single farm payment (SFP) applications have been reported by agricultural consultants, which could affect the processing of farmer payments again this year.

Several agricultural consultants have reported a catalogue of problems with more than 80pc of the SFP applications they have dealt with so far.

However, Department of Agriculture officials have downplayed the problem, insisting that there are a "relatively small number of issues", which they say "can be quickly resolved".

In many cases, the problems relate to so called 'red-lined' areas, such as farm roadways or ponds, that must be excluded from SFP calculations but are included in the gross farm area for REPS payments.

Agricultural consultants maintain that some red-lined areas have been excluded from both the farmer's SFP and REPS information, which could affect their REPS application and, consequently, their REPS payment.

The Department of Agriculture has admitted that it is aware of the issue, which it says is related to some exclusions made during its review of the ortho-imagery within the Department.

Officials have said they are "working on an approach which will systematically solve the issue".

"This will mean there will be no impact on farmers' applications under area-based schemes," the Department claimed.

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The consultants have also revealed that in some cases farmers have been sent maps that omit some or all of the painstaking changes made last year.

"What's coming back to us is totally at variance with what we sent in last year," said Agricultural Consultants' Association (ACA) president Pat Minnock. "We spent a lot of time last year submitting hugely detailed maps and now we're getting back maps that are not updated at all or only partially updated."

The Department confirmed that several cases had been brought to its attention, where it appeared at first sight that the exclusions submitted by farmers were not completed.

However, it claimed the ineligible features were excluded in these cases but it was difficult to see the lines on the printed maps, and if the maps were accessed on the iNET online system, the exclusions were clear.

Nonetheless, officials have said that if there were any cases where the exclusions were not carried out, the farmer or agent should immediately contact the Department of Agriculture.

"If the mapping is done correctly, the applicant will be informed or if further digitising is required, it will be done so immediately," said a Department spokesman.

Other problems highlighted by the consultants include maps and pre-printed application forms with conflicting reference areas.

"Given the size of the task of pre-printing application forms for approximately 130,000 farmers, it is necessary for the Department to take a download from its database for the printing some weeks prior to when the forms actually issue," the spokesman added.

Farmers with queries are being urged to contact the Department of Agriculture on special single payment Lo-Call helpline numbers, available on

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