New procedures for Northern Irish farmers applying for a 'review of decisions' under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will come into force from April 1, 2018.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) today announced that a new internal review system based up at Orchard House would replace the current two-step process.
A spokesman said: "The new procedures will provide fair, impartial and transparent treatment while ensuring a more efficient process that better meets the needs of farmers."
The review process
The previous review system - which had been criticised for being too slow - involved a two-stage process where an independent panel discussed all applications.
However, from now on, the review of the decision will be conducted by a specialist team of officials within DAERA's Area-based Schemes Payments Branch which was not involved in making the initial decision.
Farmers can request a review of a decision made by DAERA regarding their CAP application within 60 days of receiving the original decision.
Applicants who request a review will not incur any costs in the procedure - whether they are successful or not.
Applications to the following CAP area-based schemes will be subject to the new review procedures:
- Single Farm Payment;
- Basic Payment Scheme;
- Greening Payment;
- Young Farmers’ Payment;
- Forestry Grant Schemes;
- Agri-Environment Schemes;
- Less Favoured Areas Compensatory Allowance Scheme;
- Areas of Natural Constraint Scheme; and
- Environmental Farming Scheme.
A guidance booklet outlining the new procedures is available to download from DAERA's website.
Any farmer who has received a decision letter or submitted a review of decision application before April 1 will continue to have their application considered under the two-stage process.
It's recommended that, before a formal review is requested, applicants contact the scheme staff to discuss their case.
Following a review, applicants who are unhappy with the outcome can seek a judicial review or contact the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman within six months of the final decision.