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Opening of 2010 SPS iNet: Single Payment Scheme On-Line Application Facility

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith, TD, today announced that his Department's on-line application facility for the 2010 Single Payment Scheme - SPS iNet - was opened for business this week, which is six weeks earlier than the opening date under the 2009 Scheme.

"I am particularly pleased to see that the momentum is being maintained as regards iNET, particularly given the attractiveness of the system to Single Payment applicants. In the course of only three years, the level of on-line applications has risen dramatically, from 7,500 in 2007 to 35,000 in 2009. I feel this is further clear evidence of the ongoing very strong commitment of my Department to maximising new technology, to the clear benefit of farmers", said the Minister.

Minister Smith pointed to the benefits of the system, which provides for applications to be lodged by individual farmers, or their nominated approved Agents. The Minister explained that due to the system of in-built validations on the on-line facility, the options for applicants to make minor errors on their applications is dramatically restricted. "Those who submit their applications on-line are much more likely to have their applications cleared for payment more quickly, because of this aspect of the on-line system" the Minister said. "Analysis of the issues which delay processing of applications shows that a very high percentage are delayed because of basic errors or omissions on the part of the applicant. However, it has been possible to construct the on-line facility with a series of compulsory fields and built-in validations, which dramatically reduces the level of these types of error, simply by refusing to allow the applicant to make the error in the first instance. Unfortunately, such an option is not available with the traditional paper application".

The Minister confirmed that in addition to the almost 25,000 farmers who are registered with his Department to use the on-line facility, a similar number have also availed of the option to have an approved designated Agent lodge their application via the on-line system on their behalf. "It was recognised from the outset that, in order to maximise the benefit of the on-line facility, a system of approved Agents would help maximise the numbers submitting applications on-line. While there are various reasons why individuals might not be in a position to lodge on-line applications, the Agent facility is attractive to those who wish to avail of the benefits of lodging an on-line application, although not in a position to do so personally", said Minister Smith.

The Minister emphasised that the closing date for receipt of applications under the 2010 Schemes is 17 May 2010, regardless of whether applications are submitted on-line or the traditional paper application. "As this is the latest date allowable under EU rules, there is absolutely no prospect of extending it" the Minister warned, urging all applicants to ensure that they lodge their forms on or before this date. As is the norm, everyone who applied under the 2009 Scheme will receive a pre-printed 2010 application form, together with the Terms & Conditions booklet; these will be posted out mid to late March. New entrants are advised to contact any of the Department's Offices, or to consult the Department's website.

The Minister also took the opportunity to alert farmers to a very important exercise that is about to begin, namely the issuing of maps to all Scheme participants. "For various reasons, not least that it is essential that my Department's database of land parcels be as accurate as possible, full sets of maps are issuing to everyone who participated in last year's Scheme. I strongly urge all farmers to examine these maps and, where and ineligible areas are located on their farms, to mark these on the maps and return them to my Department, with their 2010 application form, ensuring that the necessary adjustments are also made to the claimed areas on the application forms".

The Minister also announced the granting of on-line access to Nitrogen and Phosphorus statements for approved designated Agents. Farmers need to be aware of their requirements under the Nitrates Regulations and this additional facility is a convenient way for approved agents to check the individual output of their clients and advise, if necessary, on any appropriate action. The Department has already sent out N&P statements to farmers farming at or above 150 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year. This information will assist farmers in their decision regarding whether they need a derogation in 2010. It is important that farmers make this decision as soon as possible as the closing date for receipt of derogation applications is Wednesday, 31st March 2010. No applications for derogations will be accepted after this date.

The Minister also referred to a number of new Schemes which are being introduced in 2010 and in respect of which further announcements would be made in due course, namely:

  • The Grassland Sheep Scheme;
  • The Dairy Efficiency Scheme;
  • The Burren Life (Farming for Conservation in the Burren) Scheme

"Each of these Schemes is being introduced to address a specific need, which is particularly pleasing given the current adverse economic conditions" the Minister said. Details of the Dairy Efficiency Scheme have been published and details of the other two Schemes will be announced over the coming weeks.

In conclusion, the Minister urged anyone considering availing of the on-line facility to make enquiries via the website, www.agfood.ie or, alternatively, the dedicated Helpdesk at Lo-call 1890 252 118.

Date Released: 17 February 2010