Farmers in Northern Ireland will share £293m in direct payments for the 2020 scheme year, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots confirmed at Ballymena Mart on Tuesday.
Minister Poots said: “Following the passage of the necessary legislation by parliament, I am pleased to confirm that the arrangements for £293m in direct payments for the 2020 scheme year are now in place.
“The 2020 scheme will operate in a similar fashion to that in 2019, apart from a small number of issues where change is necessary as a result of our exit from the EU.
“Payments under the 2020 scheme year will be nationally funded and, consequently, there will be no deductions from payments under the EU financial discipline mechanism. The limit on advance payments, which was 70% of the total payment in 2019, has been removed and as a result, my Department intends to make full payments from 16 October 2020,” he said.
Minister Poots said it is his intention to use the 2019 scheme year exchange rate of €1 = £0.89092 to calculate individual farmer payments for the 2020 scheme year.
“The option for farmers to receive payments in euro will no longer be available given our exit from the EU. I can also confirm that the unit value of Basic Payment Scheme entitlements held by individual farmers in the 2020 scheme will remain at the same value as in 2019 scheme year,” he said.
The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) said the confirmation of direct payments for 2020 is good news for farmers giving them much-needed certainty.
UFU president Ivor Ferguson said: “The announcement of farm funding for 2020 will be well received by our farmers who have had to endure a lack of clarity on payments for some time now.
“The news provides them with some much-needed certainty as direct payments are crucial for any farm business and helps to ensure the production of affordable high-quality food consumers demand continues.
“We have the ability now to regionalise agricultural policy. Farming in Northern Ireland is very different to farming in the south of England and regionalisation will ensure that the delivery of this funding best suits the differing needs and structure of our industry here,” he said.
With the Brexit process progressing, Ferguson said it is vital that Northern Ireland’s competitiveness in the all-island economy is maintained.
“The level of support payments given to agriculture in the Republic of Ireland must be tracked in the future and matched,” he said.
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