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Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots MLA has published a consultation seeking views on the role of the Independent Panel in Area-based Schemes Review of Decisions Cases.

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. The Minister at present is making the final decisions.

Minister Poots has decided that the final decision in future reviews of Area-based scheme payments should be made by the Independent Panel.

Minister Poots said: “I am acutely aware of the importance of direct payments to farmers and the wider rural community and it is vital that farmers receive the correct payment.

“Where farmers are not happy with the decisions made by my Department, it is also important that they have confidence in any review process. I believe that it will be fairer for everyone if the final decision in a Review is made by an Independent Panel.

“Therefore, as Minister, I have decided that the Independent Panel be given decision making powers in Review of Decision cases. This requires my Department to prepare new legislation. However, there are a number of questions around any new process, and this Consultation will provide stakeholders the opportunity to submit their views.”

The consultation is available on the DAERA website at http://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations/daera-consultation-proposed-changes-area-based-scheme-review-decisions-panel