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Minister Coveney reminds farmers that the closing date under the 2012 Single Payment Scheme is Tuesday, 15 May 2012 and welcomes increased use of iNET

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, TD, today reminded farmers that the closing date for receipt of applications under the 2012 Single Payment Scheme is Tuesday 15 May. "It is vitally important that farmers ensure that they lodge their applications by this date, in order to avoid penalties that must be applied where applications are received late", the Minister said. "Given the significance of the Single Payment to farm income, it is imperative that farmers allow themselves enough time to complete the form accurately and make sure it's submitted on time. We are obliged under EU rules to apply penalties where applications are received late. It is worth noting that 1,700 farmers were penalised in 2011 due to late application, resulting in a payment loss of €1.6m. These penalties can easily be avoided simply by ensuring that applications are submitted on time".

The Minister welcomed the continued interest in iNet, his Department’s on-line application facility for the Single Payment Scheme. "I am delighted to see that on-line applications under the 2012 Scheme are currently running significantly ahead of the same point during the 2011 campaign", the Minister said. "This is very much in line with the trend each year since the introduction of iNet in 2007, with increased numbers being lodged on-line each year. Indeed, there was a seven-fold increase in usage of iNet between 2007 and 2011 and, already at this stage in the 2012 campaign, the numbers lodged on-line are on target to exceed last year's record levels", he added.

"The continuing increase in uptake is testament to the recognised benefits of iNet", the Minister said, outlining 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. "Analysis of the issues which delay processing of applications show 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 also referred to the new on-line mapping option for 2012, whereby relevant maps can now also be submitted on-line with the application. "This is further evidence of the ongoing commitment to maximise the use of technology for the benefit of farmers. In keeping with the practise of constantly improving the service and options provided by iNet, I am very pleased to see that it has been technically possible to introduce an on-line mapping element into the 2012 release. This will allow farmers, or their agents, who need to submit maps to my Department to do so through iNet, thereby dispensing with the need to submit paper maps. But the benefits go beyond this, because, by virtue of the maps coming in online, immediate effect can be given to the changes required, resulting in greater efficiencies for all concerned", said Minister Coveney.

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 further 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", the Minister said. "I would certainly urge all those who have yet to do so, to give it serious consideration. Don't forget, even if you don't feel you have sufficient IT skills yourself, you can avail of the services of an approved Agent, who will do the necessary on your behalf" the Minister said, adding "I would strongly recommend that 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". The list of approved Agents is available on the Department's website, listed by county.

Concluding, the Minister referred to the recently introduced system of text messaging, designed to keep farmers informed on important issues and deadlines. "This development is another example of the use being made of modern technology for the benefit of all concerned", Minister Coveney explained, adding "an initial introductory text message was sent recently, which allowed recipients who do not wish to participate, to opt out free of charge. However, there are currently in excess of 90,000 farmers signed-up to receive text messages. A further text will issue, advising of the closing date for the 2012 Scheme. This is an extremely cost-effective way of getting vital information out to farmers, with practical, measurable benefits to follow, as any reduction in the level of late penalties being applied benefits both the individual farmers concerned and the wider community".

Date Released: 09 May 2012