Agirculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has confirmed that farmers are set to receive nearly £300m in Direct Payments for the 2020 scheme year and that his Department aims to make full payments from 16 October 2020.

The Minister made the announcement today during a visit to Ballymena Mart.

The Minister made the announcement today during a visit to Ballymena Mart. Credit: UTV

Following the passage of the necessary legislation by Parliament, I am pleased to confirm that the arrangements for £293million 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.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA

The Minister continued:“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.

“It is my intention to use the 2019 scheme year exchange rate of €1 = £0.89092 to calculate individual farmer’s payments for the 2020 scheme year, meaning that farmers now have certainty on the exchange rate that will be used. 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.”

The Minister concluded: “I believe that this announcement will provide clarity to farmers on the direct payments that they can expect to receive in 2020 and that the small number of changes will be beneficial, especially in enabling improvements in the timely delivery of payments. My Department will continue with work on developing policy on the longer term arrangements for agricultural support and further engagement with stakeholders will follow in due course.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says the confirmation of Direct Payments for 2020 is good news for farmers giving them much-needed certainty.

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.

UFU President Ivor Ferguson

Ferguson added: “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. With the Brexit process progressing, 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.”

The direct payment announcement delivers on Government’s commitment to maintain the current annual budget to farmers in every year of the Parliament.

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