Swann claims victory in farm payments row

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Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman, and member of the Stormont Agriculture Committee, has said he “warmly welcomes” the decision by the Sinn Fein Farming Minister to refine the process speeding up the process of Single Farm Payment (SFP) claims.

Assemblyman Swann is also North Antrim UUP Chairman, Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster, and Past Chairman of the influential Rural Youth Europe organisation.

Mr Swann said: “I fully welcome the decision by the Agriculture Minister to speed up the SFP claims process as contained in a letter to me.

“The Minister recognised that in the Assembly last month, she indicated she would write to me with details of that refinement process as it applied to the assessment of SFP claims which had an on-farm inspection carried out for the 2011 scheme year.

“The Minister said she had advised the Assembly that her department had found a number of ways of speeding up the processing of inspected SFP cases, including diverting staff to this work, introducing some software modifications and adjusting the detailed processing arrangements.

“Writing about the refinements, the Minister told me she had decided to adjust the arrangements in respect of applying inspection findings to other farm businesses that claimed the land was inspected in 2012 during the period 2005 to 2010 and that have already been paid for in 2011.

“Previously, she also told me, these particular cases were recalculated alongside the claim inspected in 2011, and this greatly slowed down the pace at which the findings of the current year inspections can be applied.

“She said the recalculations required on these particular claims will now be carried out at a later stage in the processing cycle.

“She added it was anticipated that this adjustment will help complete the assessment of the remaining 2011 inspected claims at an earlier stage that would otherwise have been the case.

“She revealed in her letter that she had invited the representatives of the main local banks to meet with her to update them on her department’s progress in finalising 2011 SFP inspection cases and make them aware of her concerns that in the current economic climate, that the later payment of these cases may add to the financial difficulties some farmers are facing and to encourage them to this into consideration when considering affected clients.

“I am really pleased the Minister has listened to my campaign to have these vital SFP claims processed more rapidly,” said Assemblyman Swann.