DEAR EDITOR: It is with great exasperation that I had to wrote to the Department of Agriculture regarding the outstanding eco-scheme payment element of my 2023 application.

After several phone calls to the Department helpline, a very helpful member of staff informed me that while I had complied fully with all of the criteria of the eco scheme, I still was not paid as of 16 February 2024 because some of my maps had been forwarded for digitisation.

In all fairness, what is this all about? Surely a fair-minded person could plainly see that to delay ones very needed income, especially after such a financially difficult year as 2023, is just not acceptable.

It is now time for the rules to be updated, to state that whatever hectares are deemed eligible to claim on the annual application form, are deemed correct for that coming year.

If further digitising is done during that year, then those newly adjusted hectares would be on the next year’s form. Holding up payment due to these digitising activities must stop. No other sector of society would put up with it.

Also there was an error with my Straw Incorporation Measure (SIM) payment. I was initially told after contacting the Department helpdesk that I was paid in full, but I explained that this was incorrect.

Another very helpful lady rang me back, very promptly in fairness, and said that I was indeed correct, and I had not been paid in full.

Updating issue

She explained that due to an IT updating issue, mistakes were made by the Department’s computer regarding some payments to many individuals.

In my book this is not good enough and if I (or any other farmer) make an error, we are almost accused of fraud, but if the Department makes an error, it is an IT glitch.

I wonder what would happen if there was a computer glitch with payroll calculations for five months for any of the various State employees? Farmers are just meant to suck it up.

The real issue here is that all of the various schemes have now got so complicated and difficult to operate that even the poor Department of Agriculture computer systems can barely keep up.

Can somebody of substance in the Department of Agriculture please take action to address these very serious issues? At this stage I am so fed up with the whole thing that I think I don’t care anymore. However, because farmers depend so much on these payments to survive, many are afraid to speak up. This is not right.