How farmers can avoid penalties under the Sheep Welfare Scheme

The much-anticipated Sheep Welfare Scheme opened for applications earlier this month.

With €25m allocated for the scheme, farmers can expect €10/ewe provided they comply with all the terms and conditions of the scheme.

However, farmers who don’t comply fully with the scheme will face reductions in their payments from the scheme or penalties.

The Department of Agriculture has said that payments made under the scheme are based on costs involved in undertaking the eligible actions underlying the scheme.

It is proposed that the Scheme will run for four years and an annual payment will be made to each applicant subject to the satisfactory completion of inspections and administrative control checks.

Also Read: Everything farmers need to know about the €25m Sheep Welfare Scheme

Payment will be based on the reference number for breeding ewes and should the scheme be over-subscribed a linear cut will apply to payments, the Department has confirmed.

It has clarified in the terms and conditions of the scheme what reductions and/or penalties farmers may face should they not be fully compliant:

Where an action is not fully completed in line with the scheme conditions it will be not be eligible for payment.

In-completion of actions

The scheme requires farmers to undertake and complete two measurable and verifiable sheep welfare actions.

These actions are based on flock type – lowland or hill – which is designated using the sheep numbers returned on the 2015 Census.

Applicants must choose one action from Category A and one action from Category B as appropriate to their flock type:

Where only Action A has been completed payment will be €3 per ewe. This is based on the exclusion of the payment for Action B for the non-compliance of action B plus a 50% penalty on Action A.

Where only Action B has been completed payment will be €2 per ewe. This is based on the exclusion of the payment for action A for the non-compliance of that action plus a 50% penalty on Action B.

Where neither Action A nor Action B have been completed no payment will be made and an administrative penalty of 20% based on the overall amount which would have been payable on the two actions in the scheme year will be imposed.

Scheme Action Record Book penalties

Meanwhile, farmers who fail to produce the Scheme Action Record Book on request will result in no payments for the scheme year.

They will also face an administrative penalty of 20% based on the overall amount which would have been payable in the scheme year will be imposed.

Failure to correctly complete or maintain the Scheme Action Record book will result in a 50% reduction for each scheme action incorrectly recorded.

Where no records are maintained an administrative penalty of 20% based on the overall amount payable in the scheme year will be imposed.

Other penalties

Where a scheme participant opts-out of the scheme in any year subsequent to year one there will be no clawback of payments made in preceding scheme year or years.

Intentional and serious breaches of the scheme conditions may result in non-payment for the year in question, administrative penalties of 20% on the overall amount payable and termination of participation for future scheme years.

Failure to maintain the requisite number of breeding ewes in line with most recent census return will result in a reduction of the scheme reference number to the number determined and a pro rata reduction on the remaining payment due.

Where it is established that conditions were artificially or fraudulently created by the scheme participant, or someone on their behalf, to draw down payment under the scheme, the Department has said that the scheme participant will be excluded from the scheme, all monies paid under the scheme for the relevent scheme years shall be reimbursed and administrative penalties of 20% will be imposed..

The penalties set out are the minimum sanctions that will be applied. In all cases the Department reserves the right to review files to establish whether or not a breach of the scheme conditions has occurred which may lead to a sanction or the termination of scheme participation and reimbursement of all payments made.

Monetary penalties

Monetary penalties will include interest payable at the rate provided for under Statutory Instrument Number 13 of 2006.

Interest will be calculated for the period elapsing between the notification of the repayment obligation to the farmer, and either repayment or deduction.

Penalty amounts may be deducted from future payments due to the beneficiary under other EU-financed or co-financed schemes.

Where monetary penalties are not paid or recovered within the period requested, the Department may take whatever action is deemed necessary for their recovery.

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