Sunday 28 December 2014

Veale standing his ground after being 'fined' in SFP acre review

Published 11/06/2014 | 02:30

Battle: Michael Veale, of Lemybrien, Co Waterford, pictured in part of the woodland that is at the centre of €3,700 SFP penalty. He says he will stand his ground during his appeal. Photo: Jennifer O Sullivan.
Battle: Michael Veale, of Lemybrien, Co Waterford, pictured in part of the woodland that is at the centre of €3,700 SFP penalty. He says he will stand his ground during his appeal. Photo: Jennifer O Sullivan.

Waterford farmer, Michael Veale, is just one of thousands of farmers that suffered severe penalties to their Single Farm Payments (SFP) over the last year.

Last December Mr Veale, who is a beef farmer at Lemybrien in Waterford, was informed that his €20,000 SFP was being cut by nearly 20pc following a review of his eligible acres.

"I farm about 14ac of what I'd describe as parkland, where I have a lot of mature trees with some rough grazing underneath," explained Mr Veale.

"This area is perfect for over-wintering about 70 head of cattle. They stay very dry and healthy under the trees and I like it as a system because it's not very intensive and maintains a lot of biodiversity on my farm."

The Department contended that this land was ineligible.

Mr Veale immediately appealed the SFP claw-back by registered post, but it was March before he received any further communication from the Department.

"I got a call from a Department inspector who said that he just happened to be in the area and would I mind if he called in," recalled Mr Veale. "I told him to come on ahead since I've had plenty of ground inspections here over the years and never a problem with any of them.

"He arrived a few hours later and after debating the case for a bit, he suggested to me that if I agreed to a one-third reduction in the area that I'd get an agreement. But I held my ground on the basis that I'd always under-declared what I was farming and never had an issue with the Department before," he said.

Following the inspection, Mr Veale was fined 1pc for poaching. He also received a follow-up call to say that the Department would revert back to him on the over-claim issue within six weeks. However, almost three months later Mr Veale has heard nothing more from the Department.

"I really feel that I've been softened up on this. I know that it is dangerous to dig in on something like this with the Department, but I really feel that I have right on my side," said Mr Veale.

Indo Farming

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