Farmer avoids clawback of payments following appeal

A farmer avoided a clawback by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of all Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) monies that he received under the scheme after appealing this decision to the Agricultural Appeals Office.

The case in question was one of a selection of examples of agricultural appeals cases dealt with last year, according to the Agricultural Appeals Office, in its annual report for 2019.

In the case, highlighted by the appeals office, it was noted that an appellant applied for GLAS in 2015. The application fulfilled the eligibility criteria and his application was successful.

The appellant was admitted to GLAS 2 with a contract commencement date of January 1, 2016.

A number of options on different parcels were selected:
  • Conservation of Solitary Bees;
  • Protection of Watercourses from Bovines on three separate parcels;
  • Low-input Permanent Pasture (whole of parcel);
  • Low-input Permanent Pasture (part of parcel);
  • Wild Bird Cover.

With these actions, the application was ranked as a possible Tier 1 application, the office noted.

However, during the department’s prepayment validation checks it was identified that six parcels for various different actions were no longer being claimed by the appellant on his annual application for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and other area-based schemes including GLAS.

Under the GLAS scheme terms and conditions, it was stated that “the claimed area of parcels declared on the GLAS screen in the Annual BPS application is deemed to be the area claimed for payment”. The appellant was advised about this by the department, with a letter issued to advise about the consequences and to explain about the penalty.

In this case, the penalty was rejection from the scheme and clawback of all monies paid under GLAS to date. The appellant sought a review by the department including grounds that referred to medical circumstances.

The department wrote to the appellant explaining that parcels had been transferred to another herdowner and had been claimed by that herdowner in 2018.

The parcel containing the appellant’s only priority action was included in the transfer and the transfer had also not been carried out within the requirements of the scheme terms and conditions.

The department advised the appellant that it had no option but to uphold its decision. An appeal was then received in the Agriculture Appeals Office.

In the appeal the appellant set out the extenuating circumstances which gave rise to the transfer of the parcels.

An oral hearing took place and the appellant described more fully at the oral hearing the nature of the exceptional circumstances and how they had affected him.

He wished to exit from the GLAS contract without any clawback and wished to claim force majeure, the appeals office said.

He undertook to submit further evidence relating to the circumstances and supplied that as agreed.

On receipt of the additional evidence, the department reviewed the case again in light of the additional information and medical evidence and decided, under the provisions of force majeure, to accept the appellant’s request for withdrawal from the GLAS contract and not to recoup the clawback.

The original department decision was revised by the department in favour of the appellant and after assignment to an appeals officer, the Agricultural Appeals Office concluded.