Dept now targeting 'map acres'
Department of Agriculture inspectors have embarked on a major clampdown on farmers suspected of renting so-called 'map acres' to activate single farm payment (SFP) entitlements.
Agricultural consultants have reported a significant increase in the number of unannounced inspections on land parcels where it is suspected that farmers are not actively farming the land.
If found guilty of renting maps only, farmers can lose 100pc of their SFP and be forced to pay substantial administrative fines.
Farmers who claim SFP entitlements on land parcels in different counties are being targeted for unannounced farm inspections.
While there are legitimate cases where farmers rent land for SFP purposes in different counties, it appears that a red flag is being raised when those holdings are a considerable distance from one another.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that farmers are renting marginal land with no intention of ever farming it, while some SFP applicants may not even visit the land on which they have made an application.
It is understood that unannounced inspections are being undertaken to find out if the land is being actively farmed. This can take the form of livestock grazing the land or crops such as hay or silage being taken.
If there is no evidence that the land is being actively farmed, the farmer who claims it can be subject to penalties of up to 100pc of their annual SFP payment and administration penalties, which effectively wipe out the SFP for several years.