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Minister Coughlan Announces Details of the 2008 Single Payment Scheme

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today announced details of the application arrangements for the 2008 Single Payment Scheme (SPS), the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, the Energy Crops Scheme and the Proteins Premium Scheme. "The closing date for these applications is Thursday, 15 May 2008", the Minister said. "I am opening the application period much earlier than in previous years, while at the same time choosing the latest possible closing date, in order to give farmers and their agriculture consultants/agents as long an application period as possible".

While the printed application forms will not be issued for some weeks, Minister Coughlan said she was delighted that arrangements were already in place to accept online applications. Referring further to the online application facility, the Minister added "A number of farmers and their agents are already aware of the benefits of the online application having used this facility when it was introduced last year. The application has been further enhanced and has been made even more user-friendly for 2008 based on the feedback from the farmers and their agents who applied online in 2007. There are built-in warnings etc, which results in fewer errors and, among many other features, there is instant access to all the farmer's land and entitlements details and to previous applications. Anyone interested in registering online for 2008 should visit www.agfood.ie  for full details". While the Minister encouraged an even greater take-up of the online facility in 2008, she also assured farmers that they were of course free to continue lodging written applications in the traditional manner.

Minister Coughlan went on to mention a number of significant changes to the Single Payment Scheme in 2008, mostly following consultations on further simplification at EU level. "Among the major changes that will be particularly welcomed by farmers is the abolition of the 10- month land availability rule. This has been replaced by a one-day rule. Applicants must have the land declared on their form on 31 May 2008. The definition of eligible land for payment purposes has also been expanded to include land used for potatoes, fruit and vegetables so farmers involved in these sectors will welcome this change. The 0% rate of set-aside will also be a bonus to tillage farmers and should go some way towards a much-needed increase in the crops harvest in 2008", Minister Coughlan said. In this context, the Minister also confirmed that while the EU Commission has indicated that it will consider the permanent removal of obligatory set-aside as and from 2009, no official proposal to this effect has yet been brought forward.

The Minister urged all applicants to take great care in completing their 2008 Single Payment Scheme application, which is a vital document for participation in many other schemes as well. A set of Guidelines in a separate document, specially written to help applicants to complete the form, will issue during March to all farmers along with their pre-printed form and the Helpsheet/Terms and Conditions. These documents are already available online. As well as these documents, the Minister said that further help would be available by way of Lo-call help lines. "I have again made arrangements to have dedicated Lo-call help-lines organised to assist farmers with any queries they may have in relation to the 2008 Scheme. Details of all relevant numbers are available online and will be printed in the Guidelines".

Further details in relation to usage of the SPS application by participants in REPS, the Organic Farming Scheme and the Nitrates Derogation will be made available shortly.

Date Released: 25 February 2008