McAleer calls for extension of entitlement transfer deadline

The chair of the Assembly’s Agriculture Committee Declan McAleer MLA has written to the Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots requesting an extension to the 4th May deadline for the transfer and lease of entitlements.

The West Tyrone MLA said: “The COVID-19 restrictions have created many challenges for our farmers who are an essential part of our food supply chain. This includes a plummet of already poor farmgate prices, the closure of marts, the backing up of livestock on farms as well as the constant challenge of social distancing to keep themselves and their families protected from the Coronavirus.

“To add to farmers concerns, the deadline for the lease and transfer of entitlements is less than two weeks away and in these unprecedented circumstances, farmers and agents are finding it extremely difficult to get these processed on time.

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“The process of transferring and leasing entitlements is generally a more labour intensive one than completing the Single Application Forms and is more likely to involve face to face engagements between farmers and DAERA staff.

“This is now more difficult with many staff working remotely and the need for both farmers and DAERA staff to maintain safe social distancing. Although the enhanced telephony system is welcome it still makes it more challenging and time consuming to carry out tasks such as scrutinising maps and checking entitlement details.

“This is compounded by a severe lack of broadband in many rural areas and is a severe burden on farmers who are not experienced with online options but who usually rely on the assistance of a farm agent to complete their paperwork. Taking all of these factors into account I have requested the Minster to extend the lease and transfer deadline from 4th May until the SAF date of 15th May.”