Business Farming

Monday 22 September 2014

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

Published 11/06/2014 | 02:30

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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.

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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.

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