Chairman of Aurivo to head up land eligibility appeals

The chairman of Aurivo, formerly known as Connacht Gold, has agreed to chair a new Land Eligibility Appeals Committee, it has been announced this morning.

A digital mapping review of 950,000 land parcels by the Department of Agriculture is currently under way with regard to payments made in 2009 to 2012.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney TD recently confirmed the review is under way and more letters will be issued to farmers seeking possible reimbursements if errors are found.

In July 4,800 letters were issued to farmers across the country with the Department of Agriculture seeking €1.4m in reimbursements of their single farm payment (SFP) and disadvantaged areas scheme (DAS) for 2008 only. This was due to changes in the eligible area on which farmers have claimed their payment.

The department informed thousands of farmers that the areas claimed on for their payments in the years from 2008 to 2010 did not tally with later applications and that millions had been “over-claimed”. It said the average over-payment was less than €290 per year. The department declined to release details on the highest over-payments issued.

In a statement this morning, Minister Simon Coveney said: “My department is obliged under EU Regulations to ensure its accuracy, which is done on an ongoing basis via ground inspections, remotely via satellite imagery, review of ortho-photography and by the corrections and adjustments made by individual farmers.

“Following consultation with the European Commission, as part of the normal accounting process, my department was requested to undertake a complete review of the LPIS database, which is currently under way,” the minister explained, noting that it has proven necessary to adjust land parcels of a significant number of applicants, where is was established that some ineligible features had been included. In certain circumstances these adjustments are giving rise to penalties.

A dedicated appeals committee was announced today and Padraig Gibbons, chairman of Aurivo, formerly known as Connacht Gold, has agreed to chair. It will also comprise of Appeals Officers from the Agriculture Appeals Office in Portlaoise.

The minister noted Gibbons, a farmer himself, has experience of all aspects of the agricultural sector and specifically has experience of dealing with large volumes of farmers’ appeals, having successfully chaired the similarly structured DAS Appeals Committee.

Gibbons runs a dairy farm in Westport, is a prominent figure in Irish agriculture, being a former president of the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), the co-ordinating body for the cooperative movement and is currently a member of the ICOS board. He is also a member of the boards of Teagasc and the National Dairy Council.

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