2,500 farms facing EU clawback of €1m in aid
Published 21/02/2014 | 02:30
AN estimated 2,500 farmers are to have €1m clawed back retrospectively from their EU single farm payments because they were claiming on land that can't be farmed.
However, no farmers will be penalised for land that's been rendered temporarily unusable due to flooding or storm damage, the Department of Agriculture has said.
Inspectors will take a "commonsense approach" in relation to land that has been damaged due to the storms of recent weeks, with force majeure applying for temporary losses, assistant secretary Kevin Smyth told the Oireachtas Agriculture Committee.
"For example, where there has been severe storm damage including damage to fences and grazing or large deposits of stone or debris, farmers will not be penalised under direct payments schemes," he said.
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney had visited some of the most damaged areas and fully recognised the difficulties where land was very wet or slurry tanks were full, Mr Smyth said.
Farmers who were unable to feed their animals could contact the department's Animal Welfare Helpline for assistance while Teagasc was also providing practical advice on measures needed to cope, he added.
With regard to the current review of farmland eligibility for EU payments, which farmers have been highly critical of, Mr Smyth said that the EU Commission required countries to review their EU funding as was currently happening for the 2008-2012 period.
The commission had the right to impose corrections of up to 10pc a year of payments to farmers.
Some member states such as France and Britain had lost hundreds of millions under this process.
Ireland gets €1.5bn a year in EU farm payments – most of it related to the number of acres farmed – and had €26m of that clawed back between 2002 and 2012 which was one of the lowest percentages in the EU.