‘No time for departmental blunders as payment dates loom’

A farm lobby group is insisting that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine “can no longer be allowed to ignore” clear commitments under the Farmers’ Charter of Rights with regard to the issuing of farm payments.

The national president of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA), Colm O’Donnell, has outlined how cash flow is now a “major issue” for farmers – with many attempting to hold out for the issuing of payments this September and October.

Experience of previous years has taught us that, while many farmers will get paid on time, many more will be left waiting for payments because the department failed to flag issues relating to their payments.

The Farmers’ Charter of Rights 2015-2020 was agreed following discussions with the farming organisations.

The charter sets out specific delivery targets to farmer customers and covers the following schemes: Basic Payment Scheme (BPS); Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC); Beef Genomics and Data Programme (BDGP); Knowledge Transfer Scheme; REPS; AEOS; GLAS; Organic Farming Scheme; TAMS II; forestry grant and premium schemes; horticulture; and animal health schemes.

The INHFA representative highlighted that on page 11 of charter it states that: “All queries, with the exception of stocking density queries, are notified to farmers as soon as possible after identification and, at the latest, before September 1 for the ANC and September 15 for the BPS.”

It also explains that if the applicant responds within 14 days – and provided that the response is sufficient to clear all outstanding difficulties – the application will be finalised for payment by the deadline date.

What we have seen happen over the last number of years is a clear breach of this, with most farmers only becoming aware of any issue with their payments when they failed to get either their ANC or their BPS.

The INHFA leader continued by calling on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to “give a commitment” that if any farmer has not been notified by the stated date, then, irrespective of any anomalies in their application, they will “get paid on time”.

‘No time for blunders’

O’Donnell also pointed out that there is “enhanced protection” for farmers under the terms and conditions of the BPS.

“The department is obliged to carry out preliminary checks by June 15. These checks are to assess if there are any issues around eligibility and farmers are to be notified if there are,” he said.

The farmer representative concluded by emphasising that many farmers are “in dire” financial need and cannot be left waiting for their money due to “departmental blunders”.