The IFA said farmers must not be penalised, when they have used department information and maps, and have in good faith taken all reasonable measures to ensure the accuracy of their applications in the past.
Thousands of farmers have received land eligibility letters from the Department of Agriculture advising them of retrospective penalties for land area that is now deemed ineligible. A digital mapping review is still ongoing with regard to payments made in 2009 to 2012. It has been reported that more ‘overpayment’ letters are due to be issued this week, however the department has declined to comment on this.
Land eligibility has become a major focus for the department in recent years. Since the Land Parcel Identification System was introduced, the department has made it clear that it is no longer sufficient just to reduce the overall claimed area, when taking account of an ineligible area. A map outlining the specific ineligible area must be submitted.
Farmers can receive significant penalties because the correct deduction has not been made for ineligible areas. Areas such as new farmyard extensions, roadways quarries, house sites, dense scrub and so on must be clearly marked on a map and appropriate deductions made to the claimed area.
The IFA has challenged Minister Simon Coveney to go back to Brussels and negotiate an amnesty with the European Commission to remove retrospective penalties.
The IFA is advising farmers who receive a letter from the department to examine the maps and areas carefully and determine if there is an issue with the department analysis. They say farmers and planners can use the online system to view the maps and areas in dispute.
Farmers who disagree with the department should contact them immediately, outlining the correct position. If the department does not accept this, farmers should appeal to the independent review chaired by Padraig Gibbons of Aurivo.
The IFA is demanding that all appeals will be dealt with within one month and that no payments can be held up for cases that go to appeal.