A group of farmers from west Cork are taking a legal challenge in the High Court against the Department of Agriculture over land eligibility penalties, Kerry TD Michael Healy Rae has revealed.

Healy Rea, who attended a meeting of the farmers last Monday night, in West Cork, said a fund of €100,000 was being established to pay for the legal costs of the case.

“We are all putting our hands in our pockets, farmers are united in that area.

“We are putting €100 per farmer into a fund of €100,000 to take a High Court challenge against this because it is wrong and it is probably one of the biggest attacks on our farming community that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime,” he said this week.

It is understood the group has already raised €35,000 in under five weeks and plans to take is campaign nationwide to raise the €100,000.

Healy Rea said the case is about land eligibility.

“I will explain it in simple terms. If one has 100 acres of ground now they are saying that instead of that 100 acres being eligible if anything over 20% of the 100 acres is deemed ineligible then one will incur a 100% penalty. Therefore, one will get no area aid.”

He said a person can be 20% wrong about anything but questioned why that person should be fined 100% for being 20% wrong.

In the past those farmers were not 20% wrong because the land that is now being deemed to be ineligible was eligible before, he said.

Healy Rea said the situation is having a detrimental effect on the farming community and family farm incomes and it will make the dairy farmer’s job even more difficult.