Speaking at a meeting of the Charter of Rights in Portlaoise today (Wed), IFA Deputy President Eddie Downey challenged the Department of Agriculture on their unfair and unreasonable approach in imposing retrospective penalties on thousands of farmers in respect of land eligibility issues.
He said, “It is unacceptable that land deemed eligible previously, and paid on by the Department of Agriculture, is now considered ineligible. 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”.
Eddie Downey has again called on the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to intervene in the eligible area debacle and go to Brussels to negotiate an amnesty with the EU Commission for the thousands of farmers who have had penalties imposed on them. “Minister Coveney’s inaction on this issue to date is unacceptable.”
The IFA Deputy President said IFA will hold Minister Coveney to account on the Department commitment that payments will not be held up because of the land eligibility issue.
Eddie Downey urged all farmers who disagree with the Department’s analysis and fines to contact them immediately, setting out the correct position. “If the Department does not accept this, farmers should appeal to the independent review chaired by Padraig Gibbons. IFA is demanding that all appeals will be dealt with within one month, and no payments can be held up for cases that go to appeal”.
On payments, Mr Downey made it clear at the Charter meeting that all direct payments to farmers must be made on time. Due to the fodder crisis earlier this year and the significant increase in costs, there are substantial bills on thousands of farms.
To date, over 112,000 farmers have received €563m in Single Farm Payment (SFP) and €174.5m has been paid out under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme (DAS) to over 82,000 farmers.
The Department has confirmed to IFA that the remaining 50% of the Single Farm Payment is on schedule to be paid from Dec 1st, and good progress is being made on outstanding SFP and DAS payments.
Eddie Downey said the IFA delegation also demanded that the Department ensure all other payments – REPS/AEOS, Sheep Grassland, Suckler Cow, BTAP, STAP and TAMS – are made before the end of the year.
On inspections and penalties, the IFA Deputy President said it is totally unacceptable that the level of penalties imposed on farmers by the Department of Agriculture has increased dramatically in recent years. He called on Minister Coveney to undertake a full investigation and review of the inspection and penalty regime, as part of a new Charter of Farmers’ Rights.