Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Questions (126)

Michael McCarthy


126. Deputy Michael McCarthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will review the penalty process for single farm payments and disadvantaged area scheme payments as many farmers are being unfairly penalised on lands that were formerly qualified; if he will provide clarification on the exact number of farmers that have been contacted as part of this on-going land parcel eligibility review; the number of farmers in County Cork who have been contacted in this regard; the total sum being recouped from farmers in County Cork; his views on whether this review is fair on farmers and that due to these draconian penalties and in some cases no payment, many of these farmers will be forced out of business; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23736/14]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

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.