BPS payments reduced because of non-compliant rule – can farmers appeal?

Farmers around the country who have had their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements reduced can appeal the decision.

During Dáil proceedings on Thursday, April 18, deputy Séan Fleming pointed out to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed that a number of farmers had their payments reduced under the scheme and asked if the minister had contacted those effected.

Fleming also asked Creed if he could provide details of the actual number of farmers that had been impacted.

He said there were farmers who had their payments under the scheme reduced because of an earlier rule that had not been in compliance with EU regulations. Fleming asked the minister if there was a process in place to deal with fines that had been imposed as a result and if refunds would be made to farmers.

In a written statement on the matter the minister said there was “a comprehensive independent appeals process” in place that was open to anyone that wanted to seek a forum to appeal decisions affecting their farm payments.

‘Suitability for use’

He also pointed out that a decision on whether or not a parcel of land is eligible for payment will include an assessment of suitability for use for: agricultural purposes; state of the vegetation; and evidence of parcel use – e.g. grazing.

“Appropriate fencing was, and continues to be, an indicator that a parcel is being managed and maintained in an eligible state,” said the minister.

In order to qualify for payment under BPS an applicant must have an eligible hectare for each entitlement held.

“Eligible land must be maintained in a state suitable for grazing or cultivation without preparatory action going beyond the usual agricultural methods and machinery.”

Creed went on to say that there must be an agricultural activity carried out in the parcel because ‘abandoned land’ is not eligible for payment.

“Payment under other area-based schemes – e.g. Area of Natural Constraints (ANC) – is also based on the land declared being deemed as eligible land.

The presence of suitable fencing is just one of the criteria that can be used to determine whether or not land is being maintained in an eligible condition.

He added: “There must also be an agricultural activity in the parcel; the absence of suitable fencing, particularly on marginal type land, may indicate that grazing livestock are not being controlled in a manner to satisfy the maintenance requirement of an eligible hectare.”

‘Terms and Conditions’

Meanwhile, with regard to the 2019 BPS terms and conditions the minister pointed to the fact that they provided clarification with regard to fencing.

He also said that while there has been no changes made to the rules on the eligibility of land, further clarification has been provided “on the matter of fencing of land”.

“Where parcels have been deemed ineligible in the past the assessment was similar to the current assessment,” Creed concluded.