Despite wife’s ill health and on-farm disease, farmer loses €50,000 complaint against Department
A farmer has lost his appeal to the office of the Ombudsman against a decision by the Department of Agriculture to reject his application for participation in the Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS) and assess an overpayment of over €50,000 against him.
The man had originally been admitted to REPS but following an inspection by the Department it was found that there were deficiencies in the organic fertiliser storage capacity on his holding.
Under REPS there was a requirement to have adequate storage capacity in place by the first winter and the man had failed to comply with this condition.
The facts of this case were not in dispute. However, the Ombudsman advised the man that the Department could sometimes consider exceptional circumstances (“force majeure”).
The man then supplied details of his wife’s ill health and also the presence of Johne’s disease in his herd which, he said meant that cattle could not be sold and had to be kept on the farm, overwhelming his storage capacity.
The Ombudsman put these points to the Department and asked if it would review its decision.
However, the Department rejected both arguments on the grounds that a force majeure must be notified to it within 10 working days of an applicant becoming aware of it.
In addition, the man’s wife was not one of the three applicants for the REPS.