Farmers have been urged not to leave their Single Application until the last minute, as just three weeks before the deadline, the Department of Agriculture (DAERA) reveals it has still not received the majority.

A spokesman said more than two-thirds of the applications expected to be made by Northern Ireland farmers had not yet been submitted.

'Don't assume it will be straightforward'

Head of area-based schemes at DAERA, Jason Foy, has appealed to farmers not to take "unnecessary risks" by assuming their application could be straightforward.

“We expect to receive approximately 25,000 Single Applications and, to date, we have received 8,000 - approximately 32%," he said.

It compares with more than 55,000 farmers who have already applied in the Republic of Ireland.

“With the closing date of May 15 fast approaching, I would urge farmers to begin completing your online Single Application now.

'Risking penalties'

"There may be additional actions you may need to take and this will only become clear once you begin the application process," Foy added.

If this is the case and you leave it until the last few days it increases the risk of your application being late and a penalty being applied.

“If farmers are considering making applications for the first time for the young farmers’ payment, or for entitlements from the regional reserve, it’s particularly important to get started right away.

"There’s some documentary evidence that needs to be provided to demonstrate that the young farmer is head of the business.”

Getting help

Foy added that there are a number of options available for farmers requiring assistance.

"We’re running a series of workshops in the CAFRE [College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise] campuses where farmers can book a place, come along and learn how to complete their applications," he said.

"Farmers can actually submit their applications on the night if they wish. These workshops will continue until May 10, and are free of charge to attend."

Help can also be sought over the phone on: 0300-200-7848; or through the web chat facility within the online application system.

The closing date for submitting the Single Application Form is midnight Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Applications submitted after this date will incur a penalty.