SINN Féin MLA Cathal Boylan has urged farmers who have not yet completed their Single Farm Payment and the Environmental Farming Scheme applications that the deadline is this Friday (May 15).
Mr Boylan said "In light of the COVID crisis and the fact that many DAERA staff and farm agents are working remotely, I had pressed the Minister for flexibility on this deadline, which has been the case across the EU.
"This has not been granted but the deadline for amendments has been extended until June 9."
A recent response from Minister Edwin Poots stated, "Any extension to the application period could delay payments in October 2020. However, the period during which farmers can amend claims without penalty has been extended to 09 June 2020.
"DAERA Direct offices are closed to the public. Area-based Schemes Division staff are working from home to provide an enhanced SAF Advisory Service. Action is being taken to give additional staff the ability to work from home to ensure continuity of this service.
"A service has also been put in place for DAERA staff to submit Single Applications online for applicants who have no broadband or access to I.T. equipment who would have availed of a Digital Assistance appointment in their local DAERA Direct office in the previous scheme year."
Mr Boylan concluded, "In the context of COVID, the lack of broadband in many rural areas and the fact that agents and DAERA staff are working remotely the SAF deadline has come at a difficult time.
"Farmers know very well the vitality of the SFP to sustain their businesses and protect our food supply at this crucial time and in terms of the EFS, farmers must submit the claim every year of their agreement, whether they commenced their agreement in 2017, 2018, 2019 or 2020.
"I urge farmers who still haven’t lodged their Single Application Forms to get them completed and returned to DAERA this week."
Application forms can be submitted online up to 11.59pm on Friday, May 15.