Under the Terms & Conditions of the Direct Aid Schemes, which includes the Single Payment Scheme and the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, farmers are obliged to declare only eligible land when making their applications, ensuring they exclude ineligible features such as roads, buildings, farmyards, dense scrub, etc. These claims are then recorded on my Department’s Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS). Given the importance of the LPIS database and the inspection system in underpinning direct aid payments worth in excess of €1.5 billion annually, my Department is obliged under EU Regulations to ensure their accuracy.
Following consultation with the EU Commission, as part of the normal Accounting process, my Department was requested to undertake a complete review of the LPIS database. This Review involved in excess of 900,000 individual land parcels declared by some 132,000 applicants and resulted in the necessity to adjust parcels of a significant number of applicants, where it was established that ineligible features had been included. To date, this Review has resulted in just over €10 million of SPS payments being withheld from approximately 33,000 farmers and a further €2.3 million in Disadvantaged Area payments in 2013. Issues have been identified for some 3,578 Cork farmers, the monetary value being some €2 million.
A comprehensive review and appeals process has been implemented to ensure that the cases of individual farmers affected by the LPIS Review are fully scrutinised. In the first instance, a farmer, who finds himself or herself in this position, can seek a review of the original decision by Department officials. If they are not happy with the outcome of the review, they can submit an appeal to the independently-chaired LPIS Appeals Committee. Thereafter, they are entitled to pursue their case with the Office of the Ombudsman.