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Wednesday 21 November 2018

IFA demands final settlement for the 'forgotten farmers'

Thousands of farmers who started farming in their own right have lost out on all or part of their entitlements under the YFS due to the manner in which the scheme was interpreted.
Thousands of farmers who started farming in their own right have lost out on all or part of their entitlements under the YFS due to the manner in which the scheme was interpreted.

Martin Ryan

A final settlement for the 4,000 'forgotten farmers' must be incorporated in the next CAP reform package, the IFA has insisted.

IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy said that finding a remedy for past "anomalies" in the Young Farmers' Scheme (YFS) will be a priority for the organisation in the upcoming CAP reform process.

Thousands of farmers who started farming in their own right have lost out on all or part of their entitlements under the YFS due to the manner in which the scheme was interpreted.

Under the YFS, which opened in 2015, applicants could qualify for an annual special payment for the first five years they farmed in their own right.

However, those whose first five years farming expired in 2015, or shortly thereafter, only qualified for a reduced payment under the YFS because the period before 2015 was incorrectly deemed to fall outside the scheme's remit.

The Commission has since ruled that all YFS applicants were entitled to full payments for five years. Crucially, however, it was left to the discretion of individual member states whether or not they wished to make retrospective payments to farmers who received reduced payments due to the misinterpretation of the rules.

Optional

Donal McLoughlin, an organic beef producer at Ballinamuck, Co Longford, claims that he has lost out on more than half of the amount he believes he was entitled to under the YFS.

"I obtained a herd number in 2011 and applied to the 2015 Young Farmer Scheme but I only received payment for two years because of what I see as an unfair five-year rule," he said.

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"All young farmers are now entitled to the full five years of a top-up as long as they make an application within their first five years of farming.

"This left me in a position where I would be entitled to the five years of top-up, but for a strange second part to the amendment which left the retrospective reimbursement optional."

Mr McLoughlin said a "serious injustice" was being done to thousands of young farmers.

Speaking on the issue in the Dáil recently, the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed, said the YFS payments were made in accordance with the regulations for the scheme at that time.

He said that making retrospective payments under the YFS would cost an additional €5.5m in 2018 and €7.5m in 2019. A linear cut to all BPS payments would be required to fund these extra payments, the minister maintained.

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