Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Ceisteanna (57)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

57. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason for the delay in making BPS payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [49008/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Agriculture)

My Department has received over 122,000 applications this year from farmers with entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), which is funded by the EU and is worth approximately €1.2 billion annually.

Under EU Regulations, all applications must be subjected to robust administrative checks prior to payment. The main element of the administrative check is an area assessment. This is achieved by using the detailed database of individual land parcels - the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS). The LPIS database currently holds details relating to one million individual land parcels and must be kept fully updated in order to underpin payments.

The Department’s systems in this critical area must meet demanding EU and national audit requirements. Only valid applications under the BPS that fully comply with the requirements of the EU legislation are paid. Consequently, all applications under the schemes are subject to extensive administrative checks including Ground or Remote Sensing (Satellite) inspections.

Cases that do not pass the validation process go into error and cannot be paid pending a resolution of the error concerned. Examples of these errors include over-claims, dual claims, commonage errors and issues relating to herd number ownership changes. My Department enters into correspondence, mainly through the issuing of query letters to farmers, in order to resolve these error cases.

The EU Regulations prescribe the minimum number of inspections that must take place annually. These inspections can be undertaken by means of field visits on the ground or by means of Remote Sensing using up-to-date satellite imagery. The Regulations further prescribe that, for inspection cases, the process must be fully completed before any payments can issue. Where an application is selected for inspection under any of the area-based schemes, the outcome of that inspection applies to all schemes for which the applicant has applied.

Approximately 8,000 applications are subject to an inspection in 2019 under the various area-based schemes. As of 25 November, my Department had received inspection results for over 93% of these inspections, of which 92% had been advanced to payment stage.

I am pleased to confirm that the BPS advance payment commnced as scheduled on 16 October. This is the earliest that payments can commence under the governing EU Regulations. The advance payment issued at the increased rate of 70% again this year.

In all, an advance payment worth some €747 million issued to 114,500 farmers on the first pay run, representing an increase of 1,500 farmers paid at the same stage in 2018. Some 94% of eligible applicants for the 2019 BPS received their advance payment at the earliest date possible.

Payments have continued to issue as additional cases have become clear for payment and 119,135 applicants have now been paid €786 million under the 2019 BPS. This represents 97.5% of eligible applicants. Where a farmer has not yet responded to a query letter from my Department, I would encourage them to reply at an early date in order to facilitate payment.

Preparations are currently well underway to facilitate the second instalment of BPS payments, which will commence on 2 December.