Northern Ireland department takes steps due to worries over false applications for IDs to be used for online services and funding
Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has tightened up its allocation of Farm Business Identification Numbers due to worries that false applications could be made to obtain funds.
Business IDs are required for payments of grants and subsidies and for the registration of farm animals, and can be used to register for DARD's online services that include applications for area-based support schemes. Farmers in Northern Ireland have reportedly been concerned that the existing processes were vulnerable to false applications from people who had not set up new businesses.
A spokesperson for DARD told UKAuthority: "The tighter control mechanisms are being implemented following industry concerns that the Regional Reserve, which is part of CAP Reform, may be susceptible to applications from farmers who have not established genuinely separate new farm businesses or set up other artificial conditions to access this EU funding. At this stage there is no firm evidence that this is the case."
The department has reviewed the Business ID allocation process and decided to step up the relevant verification checks to ensure a business is genuine. From now they will be carried out both at the application stage and after allocation.
If any checks show the business might not be genuine an application can be refused and an existing ID may be revoked
Michelle O'Neill, Northern Ireland's agriculture minister, said: "Access to funding under new area based schemes should only be for those farmers who are rightly entitled to it.
"Genuine farm businesses have nothing to fear from this enhancement of controls. They will be able to respond to the enhanced assessment process and prove that they are separate businesses with relative ease."
Picture by Willie Duffin, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons