More than 99% of farmers in Northern Ireland have received their full Direct Payment for 2020, Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has announced.

The total amount issued in the region for the 2020 scheme year is £292.7 million.

Minister Poots said: “I am pleased to announce that full Direct Payments have now issued to over 99% of our farmers, totalling £292.7 million in support. This includes those selected for an inspection.

“For the past number of years, Northern Ireland has led the way in payment performance within the United Kingdom.

“This year, my department made further progress by being the only region to issue full payments from October – a remarkable achievement given the ongoing pandemic.

Even under these challenging times, they have been able to complete all inspections before the end of December.

“These vital payments will greatly assist farmers, many of whom are experiencing acute financial difficulties during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

A spokesperson for the department explained the main reasons for the small number of claims outstanding are instances where the department is awaiting probate or bank details.

Payment letters have issued to every farm business by post but can also be viewed online at DAERA Online Services.

Farmers can check the status of their Single Application through a newly developed online claim tracker which can also be accessed via DAERA Online Services.

2020 payments

Payments also include the linear increase of 4.3% applied to all Basic Payment Scheme entitlements in 2020 scheme year. This increase is worth approximately £8 million in total or £330 on average per farm business.

]An additional £3.6 million was issued to NI farm businesses on December 1, 2020, reimbursement of money deducted from the previous year’s payment for the EU’s Crisis Reserve fund. No money was deducted from the 2020 payment for the reserve.

Direct Payments include the Basic Payment Scheme, Greening payments and Young Farmers’ payments.

The exchange rate for 2020 was set at €1 = £0.89 – the same as in 2019.

The 2020 Young Farmers’ Payment will be paid at the rate of £77.04/ha up to a limit to 90ha. This represented an increase from 2019 rate of £44.68.

The Greening percentage for the 2020 scheme year was set at 43.6%.