Uncertainty around what is eligible land is a serious issue for farmers in Ireland and what is eligible land needs to be clarified, a recent ICSA meeting heard.

The meeting, in Roscommon, heard that issues around what is eligible land became a serious issue in 2013 and is causing undue stress on farmers.

ICSA General Secretary Eddie Punch said that 30,000 land parcels had a problem in 2013 and it arouse due to new imagery being used by the Department of Agriculture, to clarify what is and is not eligible through the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS).

“The outcome has been an on-going process. Some 10,000 have appealed the outcome of the 2013 applications.

“I find it hard to think of a law where 10,000 people appeal the penalty.

When you have 10,000 appeals then you have to say ‘what’s wrong here?’

He pointed out that when an error of more than 20% occurs in relation to ineligible land, the farmer faces a 100% penalty.

Further, he said that when over 50% of land is deemed ineligible, the penalty is even more onerous with future payments being affected.

He also said that In 2015, a lot of the people who had penalties in October 2013 still have not got what the appeals process said they were due back.

Farmers are in a ‘damned if I do and damned if I don’t when it comes to environmental measures and farming to the rule book.

It is not fair to impose sudden and unexpected penalties at the end of the year when people expect to get their money, he said.

Farmers, he said, are thinking of taking some ha off their eligible area. “But if you keep taking ground off you are shooting yourself in the foot in the long term. You are reducing the farmland area you will be able to get entitlements on in the future.”

 When a clump of trees can cause penalties there is something wrong with the system.

Farmers need to be told at the beginning of a year what they have eligible, he said and for this to happen they must know what is and what is not eligible land.