Over 7,000 farmers had penalties imposed on their Single Farm Payments in 2014 due to over-claims, according to latest figures released by the Department of Agriculture.

Of the farmers hit with penaities, the majority of the over-claims were less than 3%. However, a significant number 1,406 farmers had over-claims of between 3-20%. Meanwhile only 170 farmers has an overclaim in excess of 50%.

According to Minister Coveney the Department is bound, under EU Regulations, to maintain the accuracy of the Land Parcel Identification System which underpins the direct payments.

He said at the start of each year, his Department issues colour maps of all land parcels declared by farmers in the previous year together with a covering letter.

“In that letter, farmers are informed of the need to examine each map carefully and to identify and exclude from their application all unfarmed land, ineligible features such as buildings, farmyards, scrub, roadways, forests, lakes etc. included in the land parcels.”

He said there is, therefore, an onus on all farmers to ensure that the area of land declared by them as eligible for the Single Farm Payment under the Direct Payment Schemes is accurate.

Minister Coveney also said that in the letters, which issue where ineligible areas have been identified, considerable detail regarding the issues and maps to advise of the particular over-claims are provided.

In addition to this information, farmers are also informed of the appeals process, should they disagree with my Department’s findings, he said.

The Minister said the appeals process he has introduced is both robust and comprehensive.

In the first instance, he said applicants are entitled to have their case reviewed by submitting their appeal on the form provided by my Department and should it be the case they are not satisfied with the outcome of the review, they can appeal their case to the independently-chaired Land Eligibility Appeals Committee.