Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has confirmed that there will be no change to the 2014 Disadvantaged Area Scheme.
In a written answer to a parliamentary question in the Dail this week the Minister stated: “While the Terms and Conditions governing the 2014 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme have yet to issue to farmers, I can confirm that there are no changes for 2014. The Terms and Conditions booklets are currently with the printers and it is envisaged that these will be posted to all farmers during the first week in April.”
The minister was also keen point out, however, that maps have recently issued to all farmers, with the request that these be closely examined and any necessary changes notified to the Department as soon as possible.
Minister Coveney also commented: “While recent media coverage has focused on the need for farmers to identify and remove ineligible areas, there are also cases where all eligible areas should be included – given the need to ensure the accuracy of my Department’s land parcel database, it is critical that farmers take the time to carefully scrutinise these maps and notify my Department of whatever changes are identified.”
He stressed: “It is widely recognised that the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme is a very important one for this country, as the total area designated as disadvantaged is almost 75% of Ireland’s total land area. From an economic perspective, the Scheme is particularly significant, contributing to the support of some 95,000 Irish farm families, whose ability to farm is restricted by the physical environment and, in particular, the impact of the prevailing wet cold climatic conditions.”
“While the budgeted expenditure under the 2012 Scheme was reduced from €220 million to €190 million, I can confirm that the budget was subsequently increased to €195 million for the 2013 Scheme. Funding of the 2014 Scheme will be maintained at this level.”
To date, payments worth €199.1 million have issued to over 94,000 farmers for the 2013 Disadvantaged Area Scheme.
According to the Minister payments continue to issue on a weekly basis, with individual cases being paid the amount due as they are confirmed eligible.
He said: “It should be appreciated, however, that many applicants, who declare land situated in a Disadvantaged Area are not eligible for payment under the Scheme. Many of these applicants do not maintain any animals and those that do maintain animals do not keep sufficient livestock to meet the minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per hectare. This is a normal feature of the Disadvantaged Area Scheme.”
“Successive EU audits have made it clear that payments should not issue under Area Based schemes, including Single Farm and Disadvantaged Areas, until all queries associated with an application are resolved.”
The payment position, on a county basis, is as outlined below. [table id=24 /]