Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Questions (16)

Willie O'Dea


16. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farmers that were written to in relation to their 2012 disadvantaged payments under the stocking density rule; the number that have been refused a derogation, including after appeal, broken down by county; the number of cases still to be decided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21480/13]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Payments under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme commenced, on target, on 26 September 2012 and, to date, payments worth in excess of €207 million have issued to 94,671 of the total of 102,072 who applied. In any event, as demonstrated below, no undue delay currently exists in processing cases and payments continue to issue twice weekly, as individual cases are confirmed eligible.

A major factor impacting on processing of 2012 Scheme applications arose from the changes made to better focus the Scheme in light of budgetary realities and, in particular, ensuring that affected applicants could have access to robust and fair derogation and appeal processes. In this context, my Department wrote to in excess of 10,000 beneficiaries under the 2011 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme whose holdings had not achieved the minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare, as required under the Terms and Conditions of the 2012 Scheme.

In response, my Department received a total of 9,829 derogation applications of which 7,414 were successful. Those, whose applications were unsuccessful, were informed of their right of appeal to the independently chaired DAS Appeals Committee, on foot of which 1,574 appeals were received. On the basis of additional information which had not previously been submitted, my Department was in a position to overturn the original decision on 614 cases, without the need to refer the cases to the DAS Appeals Committee,

Of the appeals submitted to the Committee, decisions have been taken in respect of 960 cases, of which 343 were allowed, 506 disallowed and 111 requested to submit additional information. Processing of the outstanding appeals remains ongoing.

On a more general note, the overall position is that those who have not received payment under the 2012 Disadvantaged Areas Scheme are not yet confirmed eligible for payment. Of the 7,401 cases in question, 3,435 have not, as yet, shown that their holdings satisfied the Scheme minimum stocking density requirements in 2012. The holdings of a further 2,790 did not achieve the minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units in 2011; 444 cases relate to applicants being deceased or change of ownership where my Department must await legal formalities to be completed. A further 47 cases relate to cases where it has not been demonstrated that equines are eligible. The remaining 685 cases in the main relate to outstanding area-related issues.

It will be recalled that, faced with budgetary realities, rather than simply apply an across the board cut to the rates payable or reduce the maximum payable area as a means to achieving these savings, I decided that real efforts should be made to focus the Scheme on those farmers who are most actively contributing to achieving the aims of the Scheme. These are ensuring continued agricultural land use, thereby contributing to the maintenance of viable rural communities, maintaining the countryside and promoting sustainable farming systems, which take account of environmental enhancement measures.

A table outlining the current county breakdown in relation to unsuccessful derogation applications will be provided directly to the Deputy.