GLAS payments to 750 farmers expected to issue this week
Payments under the Green Low Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) are expected to issue to a further 750 farmers before the end of this week, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has said.
Speaking in Seanad Eireann earlier today, he said that as issues with outstanding cases are resolved they are paid in weekly payment runs.
“Further payments valued at €5.3m issued to just under 1,500 participants over the past couple of weeks.”
The Minister said that as the accredited Paying Agency the Department has a duty to ensure that in making payments everything in an application that can be checked is checked as required under the regulations.
As a result payments can only issue where all the required validation checks have been successfully passed, he said.
“2016 payments represent the first full year of payment under GLAS. At the end of December 2016, there were approximately 37,500 active participants in the GLAS scheme, of which 27,400 received 85% of their 2016 payment in December. These payments were valued at over €97m.”
Hold-up in payments
“To facilitate divergent farming practices GLAS has a range of over 30 actions available for selection by applicants for GLAS.
“Under EU regulations compliance with each action must be verified therefore, there are validations associated with each of these actions.
“As a result, there are a number of different reasons why payment may not have issued.”
Minister Creed said that many of these issues, given their complexity require review on a case-by-case basis and this work is ongoing at the moment.
To suggest that these cases could be processed manually is unrealistic as the full suite of checks would remain to be carried out and recorded on each individual application which would, most likely, lead to audit risks and further delays.
As issues are resolved payments will continue to issue on an ongoing basis, the Minister said.
“I am very keenly aware of the need to process these payments without delay and recognise that these payments are overdue.
“I am ensuring that all resources required both on the IT and administrative side are directed towards resolving the outstanding queries on these cases.”
In relation to the online application system for GLAS, the Minister said that it is clear from the governing regulations that not only is it desirable that Member States move to electronic processing of area based aid and support applications but it is, in fact, a mandatory regulatory requirement from the 2018 claim year onward.
Minister Creed recently indicated that all qualifying applicants under the third tranche of GLAS will be accepted into the scheme.
“With just under 14,000 applicants for GLAS 3 this will bring overall participation levels to over the targeted participation level of 50,000 farmers.”
GLAS has a maximum annual payment of €5,000 under the general scheme with provision for payment up to €7,000 (known as GLAS+) where the farmer is required to give exceptional environmental commitments in a limited number of cases.
“Applications under the first two tranches of the GLAS scheme resulted in almost 38,000 farmers being approved into the scheme in its first year of implementation.
“This represents an unprecedented level of participation in the first year of an agri-environment scheme in Ireland.”
Meanwhile on payments under the agri-environment scheme preceding GLAS, AEOS, the Minister said that as participants in the second tranche of AEOS all completed their five-year contract at the end of December 2016 a full check of all payments made must be carried out before their final payment issues.
“This final check is an EU requirement and has been completed in many cases. 2016 Payments in the amount of over €19m have been paid to over 6,000 participants remaining in this scheme.
“Payments are issuing in outstanding cases as soon as the final check has been completed and officials in my Department are working to ensure that payment issues in all cases issue as soon as possible.”
Speaking in the Seanad in the context of the recently launched consultation process on the future of the CAP, Minister Creed said that it is in Ireland’s interests that we have a fully developed robust electronic processing and payment system that will give the necessary assurances that disbursement of EU funds is managed to the highest standards.
“Not only will this act as a protection against disallowances in this programming period but will also serve to strengthen our position in negotiating funding for a future agri-environment Scheme in the next programming period.”
In response to the Minister’s comments, Senator Brian O Domhnaill said that if the current rate of payment was continue, at 750 a week, it would take 10 weeks to clear the backlog. He also said that the Department needs to set an timeframe to get the payments out to farmers.
Minister Creed said that he is “acutely conscious” of the cashflow hardship farmers are experiencing at the moment and that he is also conscious of the Farmers Charter of Rights also.
“Every effort is being made to get them paid as quickly as possible. Every single application has to be eyeballed and issues with those applications currently being held up have to be resolved. It’s a logistical issue that needs time to be resolved.”