To date, some 10,728 appeals farmers have appealed land eligibility fines from their Single Farm Payments.

Of the 10,728 appeals the Department of Agriculture says some 8,448 have been finalised or are in the final stages of processing.

In addition, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine says 2,280 cases are in the process of either ground verification visits or administrative validation.

To date, 359 cases were referred to the Land Eligibility Appeals Committee for consideration. These cases were reviewed by the Appeals Committee and decisions have been advised to 319 of the applicants.

Department says it is bound, under EU Regulations, to maintain the accuracy of the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) which underpins the direct payments.

At the start of each year, the Department issues colour maps of all land parcels declared by farmers in the previous year together with a covering letter.

It says in that letter, farmers are clearly informed of the need to carefully examine each map and to identify and exclude from their application all unfarmed land, ineligible features such as buildings, farmyards, scrub, roadways, forests, lakes, etc. included in the land parcels.

According to the Department there is, therefore, an onus on all farmers to ensure that the area of land declared by them as eligible for payment under the Direct Payment Schemes is accurate. IT adds that these requirements are also made clear in the Terms and Conditions of the Schemes, which accompanies the pre-printed application form issued to all farmers.

The Department says where letters issue as a result of ineligible areas having been identified, considerable detail regarding the issues, and maps to advise of the particular over-claims, are provided. it says where possible, payments continue to issue.

In addition, farmers are also informed of the appeals process, should they disagree with the findings of the Department.

IT says the appeals process is both robust and comprehensive; in the first instance, applicants are entitled to have their case reviewed by submitting their appeal on the form provided to the Department. If applicants are not satisfied with the outcome of that review, they can appeal their case to the independent-chaired Land Eligibility Appeals Committee.