Monday 26 September 2016

Coveney defends his record on basic payments delivery

Published 02/02/2016 | 02:30

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney
Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has challenged farmers to show him a country that sent basic payments out faster than Ireland did last year.

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Mr Coveney admitted there had been a "communications" problem surrounding delays in delivering the annual funding to some farmers, particularly national reserve and young farmer top-ups and cases involving land transfers.

Mr Coveney said a new system had been introduced for phone queries, but this had not worked as planned and would be changed for next year.

"I would challenge anybody to show me a country that has got payments out faster than Ireland," he said, adding it had been an especially complex process in 2015 with the number of new schemes in place.

"If you look at our closest neighbour only about 50pc of farmers have got a basic payment and there was no 70pc advanced payment for them at all."

The minister said the Department had now paid out on 97-98pc of basic payments and over 60pc of the new payments to young farmers. An estimated 2,500 farmers are still awaiting payments.

Young farmers

Around 5,500 out of 9,200 applicants for the young farmers and national reserve scheme have been paid so far, with 700 rejected. In total, some 122,291 farmers have been paid €1.1m in basic payments.

ICSA president Patrick Kent said some farmers had been left in "desperate hardship" and "changes are required to deliver payments on time to all farmers".

IFA deputy president Tim O'Leary said the delays were "unacceptable" and farmers were very frustrated with the "inadequate" phone service.

It also emerged successful TAMS applicants will not receive the payments until the second half of the year. Pat McCormack from the ICMSA said for farmers who have installed expensive equipment or facilities it was difficult to wait for the monies on a year with low milk prices.

Mr Coveney also confirmed a further 11,500 farmers out of the 14,000 that applied to GLAS II will be approved, bringing total numbers to 38,000.

Fianna Fail agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív said with the numbers accepted the planned annual GLAS spend of €250m will fall short at around €142m.

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