A record number of farmers applied for the 2012 Single Farm Payment online, according to Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill.

Each year the Department attracts around 38,000 Single Applications from farmers and although the majority of these are submitted on paper, an ever increasing number are now turning to the online application channel.

The Minister said: "I am encouraged that more and more farmers are using my Department's Single Application online service in favour of the paper application. The fact that over 8,000 farmers have chosen to use it is clear evidence that this particular service is increasingly popular.

"The fast, efficient and easy to use Single Application online service is designed to reduce the likelihood of farmers submitting their claims with basics errors. This enables my Department to process claims more quickly and increases the likelihood of the payment being included in the first batch processed." In 2005, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development first launched its Single Application online service attracting just 93 applications in its first year. Since then, the Department has worked closely with users of the service to introduce a range of new features making it easier to use and more attractive to farmers who continue to submit paper applications.