New figures from the Department of Agriculture shows that more than €5m was taken in penalties from Single Farm Payments last year.

According to official figures received by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Agriculture Éamon Ó Cuív through a Parliamentary Question, more than €5m was taken in penalties from farm payments last year. The figures show that farmers in Cork, Kerry and Donegal in particular are having hundreds of thousands of euro taken from them.

Deputy Ó Cuív commented, “These penalties are extremely harsh and cause major difficulties to small farmers right across the country. Many are already struggling with cuts to payments and increased operating costs, and they are now being hit with unnecessary and unwarranted penalties.

“Many of the fines are for innocent errors linked to farm inspections and the new satellite mapping system. It’s unfair that farmers, through no fault of their own, are being forced to foot the bill for extortionate penalties, many of which date back as far as 2008.

“The system is overly complicated and bureaucratic and many farmers find it extremely difficult to navigate through all the additional red tape. Minister Coveney refuses to defend farmers who have made unintentional mistakes when filling out forms and has stood back while they are forced to pay hefty fines they can ill-afford. In the Minister’s own home county of Cork, fines totalling more than €1m were accumulated in the year.

“Farmers are becoming increasingly distressed about the high level of bureaucracy, penalties and inspections for extremely trivial issues. As a result, many are choosing not to apply for agriculture schemes because of the enormous amount of paperwork, regulations and procedures involved, and because of the fear of being hit with a penalty because of a minor mistake.

“I am again calling on Minister Coveney to stand up for farmers and to cancel or at least review the scale of these penalties. The money should be repaid in full to the farmers in question, as many of the mistakes were beyond the control of individuals or were human error due to complicated nature of the paperwork,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.