The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA)
has announced that the final decision in future reviews of area-based
scheme payments, which have been heard by an independent panel, will now
be taken by the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
Under current arrangements, where a farmer is dissatisfied with a decision taken by the Department in relation to their area-based scheme payment, they can ask for a review of that decision. As part of the Review of Decision process, the farmer can apply for an independent panel assessment of their case. The independent Panel hears the case and makes a recommendation to the Department, which make the final decision.
For future reviews, DAERA will continue to carry out the Review of Decision process. For cases which have been heard by the Independent Panel a recommendation will be provided to the Department, with the final decision on the outcome of a case being taken by the Minister.
Announcing the change to the process, Minster Edwin Poots MLA said: “As Minister for Agriculture, I know how important the payments my Department make each year are to farmers and the wider rural community. It is important that these payments are correct. Where farmers are not happy with the decisions made by my Department, it is also important that farmers have confidence in the review process.
“I recently requested that the Independent Panel be given decision making powers in reviews. This will require my Department to make new legislation.
“Until that legislation is in place, I have decided that, as Minister, I will take the final decision in reviews heard by the Independent Panel. I will look at recommendations coming from the Independent Panel and consider them carefully before reaching a final decision in any particular case.”
Current and future Reviews of Decisions where the Department has not yet issued a decision will now be referred to Minister Poots.