Department demands refund of GLAS cash from farm businesses

Pat McCormack President of the ICMSA. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Pat McCormack President of the ICMSA. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

A number of GLAS farmers who incorporated their businesses since joining the environmental scheme may have to repay all funds received under the environmental scheme.

It has emerged that the Department of Agriculture is taking a tough line with a number of such farmers and is seeking to recoup up to €20,000 in GLAS payments in some cases.

The difficulties relate to the GLAS contract which was signed with the Department and the applicant at the time of joining the scheme.

In a letter seen by the Farming Independent the Department insisted that any change in the status of the 'entity' which is party to the GLAS agreement must be cleared by its GLAS section.

"The purpose of this circular is to remind advisors that, in accordance with the GLAS terms and conditions, all GLAS contract transfer requests must be made in advance, in writing, to [the] GLAS Section," the letter stated.

"All transfer requests must be made in advance, in writing, to [the] GLAS Section with a brief explanation of the circumstance of the transfer, agreeing to the GLAS scheme terms and conditions and must be signed by all the parties involved.

Termination

"Failure to comply with the scheme's terms and conditions may result in the application of sanctions up to and including termination of contract and recoupment of all monies previously paid."

It is understood that the farm organisations are working on behalf of a number of farmers in GLAS who have incorporated during their time in the scheme. Since these farmers are technically in breach of the scheme's terms and conditions the Department is seeking to claw back all payments.

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ICMSA president Pat McCormack said it was "quite extraordinary" to see such "disproportionate efforts" being made to recoup GLAS payments on the basis of 'change of entity' when all parties to the debate accepted that the payments had been made to essentially the same person and farming operation.

Mr McCormack described the Department's approach as "overly legalistic" and "hopelessly at odds" with the Government's stated objectives to further develop the environmental awareness and capacity of farmers.

"In the context of the Climate Action Plan just announced surely we have to look at making it easier and less challenging for farmers to engage with environmental schemes and not, instead, be looking for legal reasons to actually punish farmers who have engaged with GLAS and have met the conditions for payment," he said.

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