Over 1,500 farmers hit with land eligibility penalties to date

To date in 2016, 1,503 farmers have received land eligibility penalties under the basic payment scheme totalling just over €380,000, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed has confirmed.

The Minister released the information in a parliamentary question to Fianna Fail’s Agriculture Spokesperson, Charlie McConalogue this week.

Compared to 2015 and 2014, the number of farmers being penalised has fallen considerably year-on-year. Last year, 1,707 farmers were penalised and €1.2m was claimed back while in 2014, the figure stood at €2.3m, with 7,500 farmers overclaiming on their application.

Minister Creed said that new measures were announced in 2016 by way of a preliminary check and revised penalty regime which are intended to further assist in the reduction of penalties for farmers.

The preliminary check, which is exclusive to applicants who submit their application using the Departments online system, notifies applicants of an overclaim/dualclaim or overlap error on their application and allows them a window of up to 35 days in which to rectify this error without penalty.

“In 2016 over 5,000 notifications issued under the preliminary check system.”

A revised penalty regime was also introduced in 2016 which reduced the penalty imposed where an overclaim of between 3 and 20% occurred from twice the difference of the area overclaimed to 1.5 times the difference now where the overclaim exceeds 3% or 2ha, the Minister said.

“Furthermore where the area overdeclared is over 3% and not greater than 10% the penalty is further reduced to .75 times the difference where it’s the first time the herdowner has been penalised under the new rule.

“These measures it is expected, will contribute to the reduction of errors and the penalties applied.”

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Meanwhile, with the final Basic Payment Scheme payments due to issue on December 1, IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy said Minister Creed must ensure that the Department has all files fully cleared for the final payment.

He said the final payment should be worth up to €400m and this money must get out to farmers well before Christmas.

On ANCs, Kennedy said it is important that as the minimum stocking rates are cleared and the yellow card system for overclaims is in place, all outstanding payments are made.

The IFA Deputy President said farmers need their payments on time this year as the income crisis at farm family level is very severe.

He also called for all other payments to be made without delay including GLAS, genomics and other schemes.

On GLAS, he pointed out that farmers have already incurred significant costs through planner fees and compliance costs, which have impacted severely on cash flow.

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