Future BPS payments ‘secured’ for farmers with land burned in 2017

Future payments under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) have reportedly been secured for farmers who had land burned in 2017.

The INHFA and the IFA have both made announcements relating to the matter.

INHFA

The president of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA), Colm O’Donnell, claimed that an agreement was reached following communication with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, and a meeting with officials from his department.

Commenting after the meeting, O’Donnell said: “Affected farmers will be issued with their 2018 basic payment applications immediately, which includes burned lands excluded from payment under last year’s scheme.

I am advising all farmers concerned to instruct their agricultural advisor to use the most up-to-date online maps to make their 2018 BPS application.

Continuing, the INHFA president explained that “no penalties would apply to their 2017 BPS payments where the amount of land deemed ineligible due to burning is exceeded by other lands submitted by the applicant”.

“In these cases, the balancing 30% of their BPS payment will issue without penalties in the coming two weeks.

“Where farmers have received late application forms, a commitment was given by department officials to assist them and their planners should they require help or seek clarifications regarding the making of a valid 2018 application,” he said.

IFA

Meanwhile, Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) Hill Committee chairman Flor McCarthy has said the Department of Agriculture has confirmed to IFA that it is writing to farmers who have appealed the penalty imposed on hill land that was burned in 2017.

The IFA is insisting that no farmer is penalised unless the department can categorically prove that the farmer in question is responsible for the burning.

McCarthy said it would be unacceptable that penalties would be imposed without clear evidence.

According to the organisation, the IFA has supported farmers in their appeals, which have provided evidence that the farmers in question did not start the fires. This was done through affidavits and appeal letters.

At meetings with the Department of Agriculture since this issue arose at the end of 2017, the IFA has been told that the lands in question are eligible for 2018 Basic Payment and the only issue at stake is the 2017 payment.

McCarthy pointed out that, in the paper applications that these farmers have received for this year’s BPS application, the burnt land has been removed.

However, he said the lands are eligible and will be included on the online system. McCarthy encouraged farmers to ensure all of their eligible land is included when they make their online applications.

If farmers still have a problem with their 2017 payment, the IFA is encouraging them to bring their case to the Agricultural Appeals Office and the association will support them in arguing that, unless the department can prove culpability, payment must be made on the land.

BPS applications

This year represents the first year that all BPS applications must be submitted online due to EU regulations.

The minister opened the application process for the scheme in February, which was earlier than normal, in order to facilitate this requirement.

Commenting on the matter at the end of last week, Minister Creed said: “Online applications offer a range of benefits for farmers and also help my department to issue these vital payments more efficiently.

I am delighted to see that a large number of farmers have already applied online since I announced the early opening of the 2018 application period.

“Almost 35,000 farmers have already made their online applications, compared to a total of just 21,000 applications received at this stage last year.”