Mid Ulster farmers reap £26m in EU fund payments

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Farmers in Mid Ulster have shared a £26m windfall, one of the highest cash boosts for the farming community in any of the North’s constituencies.

The economic windfall came in the form of 2014/15’s Single Farm Payment, which has seen a record 95 per cent of Northern Ireland’s almost 31,000 farmers receive a payment.

South Tyrone and Fermanagh farmers received the highest sum at £36m, while West Tyrone farmers secured the next highest amount at £33m.

In all, £249m was paid to Northern Irish farmers in the past financial year.

Welcoming the unprecedented payment performance, Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “This record payment performance was achieved because more applicants applied online and because of the dedication and diligence of DARD staff who shared my determination to ensure as many farmers as possible received their payments as soon as possible.

“Targets have not only been met but exceeded. 95% of claims have been finalised for payment in December, including over 600 subject to inspection via Control with Remote Sensing.

“More claims were paid in one day in December 2014 than in the whole month of December 2013.”

Referring to the work carried out to deliver the single farm payments to a record number of inspected cases, the Minister said: “I am particularly pleased to see a significant improvement in the processing of inspections in 2014. For the first time ever, the majority of inspected claims were paid in December and I expect all inspected claims to be processed by March 2015, earlier than ever before.”

Highlighting the department of agriculture’s ambitions for the future, the Minister added: “Next year a new set of schemes will be introduced and this will bring challenges both for farmers and my Department.

“I would strongly encourage farmers to go online themselves or ask their agent or form filler to go online. It’s the most effective way to avoid mistakes and crucially it will speed up the processing of applications.”