Page last updated at 17:54 GMT, Monday, 14 January 2013

Single Farm Payments

Delays in the payment of Single Farm Payment (SFP) can cause "a severe financial shock" to farmers, Agriculture Committee chairman Paul Frew of the DUP told the Assembly, on 14 January 2012.

Mr Frew was proposing a committee motion calling on the agriculture minister to ensure that the systems for the delivery of the SFP were fit for purpose.

The North Antrim MLA explained that SFP brought £300m into Northern Ireland each year and was "a vital element to our overall economy".

He said late payments were becoming a major problem.

The chairman said the Department of Agriculture (DARD) had "really struggled" with the issue of forms and maps in 2011.

Regarding the maps, he said there had been considerable confusion regarding "scrub, whin, heather and grazing".

Mr Frew called for the greater use of remote sensing through the use of aerial imagery or satellites for land inspections.

Oliver McMullan of Sinn Fein said 100,000 changes had to be made to the maps in 2011.

The UUP's Jo-Anne Dobson said many farmers could not survive without the payment.

Sean Rogers of the SDLP said the system had "caused havoc with cash flow" and "the farmer always becomes the fall guy".

Replying to the debate, Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill said she would be making a further announcement on the use of remote sensing in the coming months.

She said it was not in the interest of the department to delay payments.

The minister said more than 86% of 2012 payments had already been made, with most of these being paid into bank accounts before Christmas.

The motion was passed unopposed.

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