A digital mapping review of 950,000 land parcels by the Department of Agriculture is currently under way with regard to payments made in 2009 to 2012.

Speaking in the Dail yesterday, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney TD confirmed a review is under way and more letters will be issued to farmers seeking possible reimbursements if errors are found.

Last July 4,800 letters were issued to farmers across the country with the Department of Agriculture seeking €1.4m in reimbursements of their single farm payment (SFP) and disadvantaged areas scheme (DAS) for 2008 only. This was due to changes in the eligible area on which farmers have claimed their payment.

The department informed thousands of farmers that the areas claimed on for their payments in the years from 2008 to 2010 did not tally with later applications and that millions had been “over-claimed”. It said the average over-payment was less than €290 per year.

“My department is bound under EU regulations to maintain the accuracy of the land parcel identification system, LPIS, which underpins the processing of applications under these schemes, as well as the rural environment protection scheme, Rural Environment Protection Scheme and the agri-environment options scheme, Agri-Environment Options Scheme,” explained Minister Coveney in the Dail yesterday in reply to a parliamentary question by Fianna Fail’s Éamon Ó Cuív TD.

“In view of the size and structure of farm enterprises in Ireland, farmers are fully aware of all of the non-eligible areas of their holdings. In addition to any changes submitted by farmers and to ensure the integrity of the LPIS, my department continuously reviews the eligibility of lands claimed by farmers for the single payment scheme and other direct payment schemes,” the minister continued.

In agreement with the European Commission, the agriculture department is now re-digitising its LPIS database to deal with ineligible features to establish any overpayments.

“The department is currently reviewing all land parcels claimed in respect of the 2009 to 2012 direct payment scheme years. This effectively means a review of all 950,000 land parcels for each of four scheme years. As a result of this phase of this review, any payments made to farmers in respect of claimed areas, which were found to be ineligible, must be reimbursed,” the minister added.

It was also confirmed that an appeals process will be implemented.

The full Oireachtas debate is available here.

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