Over 16,000 farm business IDs in NI have been closed as part of a review by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) into dormant businesses.

Details of the exercise were outlined in a letter to Sinn Fein MLA, Declan McAleer, which has been seen by the Irish Farmers Journal.

“This review focuses on businesses that have had no interaction whatsoever with the Department for over two or five scheme years,” the letter states.

In particular, the review targeted farms which have had no herd or flock activity, have held no Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements, and have not applied for any schemes in recent years.

DAERA found that 16,237 farm businesses in NI had no interaction with them for five years or more, and are “now considered closed”.

Businesses can appeal

Representatives from these businesses have been notified by the Department and can appeal the decision if they feel it is incorrect.

However, DAERA points out there should be little need for business IDs to be retained for purposes other than interacting with the Department.

For example, DAERA states that the dormancy of a business ID alone does not prohibit a farm from being eligible for “certain planning permissions or rates relief”.

Likewise, some families have asked for business IDs to be retained for “sentimental reasons”, although this too appears to have been dismissed by the Department in most cases.

“DAERA must issue business IDs for necessary interactions with the Department, which are keeping livestock and claiming area-based schemes,” the letter reads.

The main purpose of the review appears to be preventing individuals from resurrecting old business IDs as a way of avoiding the strict controls that are in place for setting up a new farm business.

For example, to get a new business ID to start claiming BPS or keeping livestock, farmers must meet criteria about how the business is structured and operates.

In particular, a new business must be completely separate from other existing farm businesses.