The Deputy will be fully aware of the importance of payments made under the single payment scheme, the disadvantaged areas scheme and other direct payment schemes to the annual income of farmers. To date, my Department has paid €582 million in advance payments to more than 115,143 farmers under the 2013 single payment scheme since payments commenced on 16 October. Some 84,800 farmers have received just under €180 million under the 2013 disadvantaged areas scheme. Payments continue to issue under both schemes as cases become clear and eligible for payment. I reassure farmers that no payments are held up due to the ongoing LPIS review.
Department officials met the Commission in July of this year about possible disallowances and, in response, my Department is reviewing all land parcels claimed. This means in effect a review of all 950,000 land parcels. This is a mammoth task but my Department is making every effort to ensure it will be completed in a manner that satisfies the Commission and avoids significant disallowances for Ireland. As a result of this phase of this review, any payments made to farmers in respect of claimed areas which were found to be ineligible must be reimbursed. That is for 2013. No decisions have yet been made in respect of retrospection and there is no detail regarding that in the letters that have gone out to farmers. The review of the 950,000 parcels contained in the LPIS database is well advanced at this stage, with more than half the parcels reviewed, and it is on target to be finalised in time to allow a comprehensive response to the Commission which is required by 15 December.
To date, 19,418 over-claim letters have issued to farmers, together with maps of the land parcels in question. It should be borne in mind that for 75% of farmers, the over-claim will have no impact on payment as many farmers declare more land than payment entitlements, and a further 18% of farmers have a minimal payment reduction. The average over-claim is less that €90 or just over €300 for those applicants with a reduction and penalty. These figures are based on 2013 payments only.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In the letters issued to date there is considerable detail and maps to advise of the particular over-claims. Farmers are also informed of the appeals process should they disagree with my Department's findings. The appeals process I have introduced is robust and comprehensive. In the first instance, applicants are entitled to have their case reviewed by submitting their appeal on the form provided by my Department. If they are not satisfied with the outcome of the review, they can appeal their case to the independently chaired land eligibility appeals committee, details of which I announced recently. This committee will consist of an independent chairman and appeals officers from the agriculture appeals office.