I thank the Deputy. BDGP I and BDGP II commenced in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and both will run for six years. They represent a significant commitment for participating farmers over the duration of the programmes. The number of active participants in BDGP I and II fluctuates on an ongoing basis as a result of participants withdrawing or being disqualified for non–compliance from the programmes and due to participants being re-admitted following successful appeals. In 2015, 29,903 participants applied to participate in BDGP I. However, 6,858 of those have either withdrawn or have been disqualified with 23,045 eligible participants remaining in BDGP I . In 2017, 1,896 participants applied to participate in BDGP II. However, 397 withdrew subsequently or were disqualified with 1,499 eligible participants remaining in BDGP II. Therefore, the total number of active eligible participants in the two programmes currently stands at 24,544.
All funds allocated remain committed to the BDGP for the duration of the current rural development programme. Generally, withdrawal cases will require any moneys paid over the course of the programme to be repaid in accordance with the regulations. However, where withdrawals are due to reasons such as ill health and force majeure, provisions of the EU regulations and the terms and conditions of the programmes may be applied with no recoupment of moneys paid. Payments totalling €42.8 million have been made to date to 23,483 participants, which represents approximately 96% of those still active in the BDGP programmes.
I note to the Deputy that the correlation between the number of applicants and the payments made is not linear. The experience is showing that while a number of applicants have left the scheme, they tend to be, albeit not exclusively, those participants with lower levels of financial commitment from the scheme. While there is a reduction and there will ultimately be some headroom in respect of the targeted expenditure, it will not be that significant.