NI agriculture minister confirms £293 million in direct payments

Northern Ireland’s new agriculture minister Edwin Poots has confirmed that farmers there will share £293 million in direct payments for the 2020 scheme year, and that “full payments” will be made from October 16 this year.

Speaking from Ballymena Mart in Co. Antrim, Poots said “Following the passage of the necessary legislation by parliament, I am pleased to confirm that the arrangements for £293 million in direct payments for the 2020 scheme year are now in place.

“The 2020 scheme will operate in a similar fashion to that in 2019, apart from a small number of issues where change is necessary as a result of our exit from the EU,” Poots explained.

Payments under the 2020 scheme year will be nationally funded and, consequently, there will be no deductions from payments under the EU financial discipline mechanism.

“The limit on advance payments, which was 70% of the total payment in 2019, has been removed and as a result, my department intends to make full payments from 16 October 2020,” he added.

Poots explained that the 2019 scheme year exchange rate (approximately €1=£0.89) would be used to calculate individual farmer’s payments for the 2020 scheme year.

According to the new minister, this would mean that farmers will have “certainty” on the exchange rate.

The option for farmers to receive payments in euro will no longer be available given our exit from the EU. I can also confirm that the unit value of Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements held by individual farmers in the 2020 scheme will remain at the same value as in 2019 scheme year.

Poots argued: “I believe that this announcement will provide clarity to farmers on the direct payments that they can expect to receive in 2020 and that the small number of changes will be beneficial, especially in enabling improvements in the timely delivery of payments.

“My department will continue with work on developing policy on the longer term arrangements for agricultural support and further engagement with stakeholders will follow in due course,” he concluded.