All applications under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme are subject to administrative check, in addition to which a percentage are also subject to field inspection. The basis of both these checks is laid down in the governing EU Regulations.
The administrative checks and systems validations confirm compliance with a variety of requirements, including confirming that the application was received on time, that the land declared by the applicant was not also claimed by another Scheme applicant, that the necessary minimum stocking density levels have been achieved, etc. Failure to respect one or more of these Scheme requirements must result in a penalty be applied.
The annual round of field inspections covers both the eligibility of the land declared to draw down payments and also cross compliance aspects, to ensure compliance with EU regulatory requirements in the areas of public, animal and plant health, environment and animal welfare. These inspections are mandatory and there are certain minimum numbers and types of inspections that must take place annually.
Land eligibility inspection (either on-farm or by remote sensing) must be carried out on at least 5% of applicants. These checks are carried out to verify that the actual area claimed in the application form corresponds to the area farmed by the farmer and to ensure that any ineligible land or features are not included for aid purposes. In order to be eligible to draw down EU funding, it is a requirement that all land eligibility inspections must take place before any payments can issue to any farmer in the country in a given year.
Furthermore, under the 2012 Scheme, applicants’ holdings were required to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.3 livestock units per forage hectare in 2011, or have successfully applied for derogation; in addition, applicants’ holdings were also required to have met a minimum stocking density of 0.15 livestock units for a minimum retention period of six consecutive months in 2012 and also have achieved an annual average stocking density of 0.15 livestock units per forage hectare for the twelve months.
Payments in excess of €208 million have been delivered thus far to farmers under the 2012 Scheme have issued to 95,449 farmers. To date, 7,188 cases have been subject to partial penalty; these penalties represented, on average, 6% of the individual payments concerned. These penalties arose due to a variety of factors, including late submission of applications, over-declaration of land, cross compliance, etc. In addition, there were 310 cases subject of a full penalty, where no payment issued because the extent of breach of the Scheme requirements was above the threshold allowed.
In addition, 2,903 applicants did not meet the revised 2011 stocking density level required for the 2012 Scheme. Of these, to date, 1,506 unsuccessfully sought derogation, in some cases having gone through the available appeal processes In addition to the 2,903 cases already referred to, a further 3,832 have not, to date, satisfied the general 2012 minimum stocking density requirements. This latter number is subject to change in the event that individual applicants demonstrate compliance with the minimum stocking requirements.