For 2018 inspections, the Department of Agriculture confirmed that it's in the process of reviewing 2017 inspections, with a view to making the necessary changes for 2018 to avoid the difficulties and delays that occurred with satellite inspections in 2017. It made the remark at the Charter of Farmers' Rights Monitoring Committee meeting earlier this week.

The Department also confirmed that its inspectors will take a flexible and practical approach with regard to any weather-related inspection issues, and particularly take into account the unique circumstances and any hardship incurred on a case-by-case basis.

IT issues

IT issues across a number of schemes, including GLAS, KT and TAMS, must be resolved immediately so farmers can be paid without further delay, according to IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy, who was also speaking at the the charter meeting.

He said the charter review group told the Department of Agriculture IT section that the issues and problems holding back the remaining KT payments, delaying TAMS inspections and GLAS, are causing major problems for individual farmers.

The Department told the meeting that TAMS inspections will commence in the next two weeks and will be completed without delay, which will in turn clear payments on outstanding cases.

Kennedy said the Department provided an update on the progress regarding online BPS applications this year. He said all applications have to be online in 2018 and already 1,341 farmers of the 16,000 who submitted paper applications last year have lodged their form online.

The Department will be writing to farmers over the coming weeks to make sure that they get an online application lodged. It's arranging more than 40 meetings at local level in April to assist any applicants with their online applications.

Sheep farmers were reminded to submit their sheep census return without delay, as they cannot be paid under any scheme without a completed census form.

On the sheep welfare scheme, 20,684 farmers have been paid €16m in advance payments. Inspections are currently taking place and expect to be completed by the end of March, which will release the final payment in early quarter two, worth €3m.

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