Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Charter complaint on payments

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Delays in the processing of payments under the Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) and Single Farm Payment (SFP) were raised at a meeting of the Farmers' Charter Monitoring Committee in Portlaoise last week.

IFA deputy president Eddie Downey said the chairman of the Charter Review Group, John Malone, agreed to make immediate contact with the Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, to highlight the concerns and views of the Charter Committee over the payment delays.

On DAS payments, the Department presented data showing that 89,096 farmers out of 102,500 applicants had received the full or partial advance amounting to €177.5m.

The IFA deputy president said the Department confirmed that there were about 32,000 farmers who still had to have maps digitised.

Mr Downey said that the key issue was that Mr Smith insisted that all cases were completed to ensure the Department was in a position to issue full payments on December 1.

He said farmers on the ground who were selected by the Department for inspections were furious that their payments were now held up because their files had not been returned or processed.

He said this was a breach of the charter as there was a commitment to complete eligibility inspections before the payment deadlines and cross-compliance inspections could not delay payments.

Meanwhile, ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin has criticised the later AEOS start date of November 1 for farmers with SAC (Special Area of Conservation) or other designated lands.

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"It's unfair on SAC farmers to have a start date two months after other Agri-Environment Option Scheme farmers," Mr Gilmartin said. "This means a pitiful payment of about €700 for 2010. In effect, SAC farmers are being discriminated against. The Department has had plenty of time since May to work through the 9,000 applicants, of whom some 3,000 have SAC or other designated lands.

"These farmers had the additional cost of having to get a qualified environmentalist to draw up a management plan for the SAC ground and have therefore incurred extra cost compared to non-SAC applicants," the ICSA president pointed out.

"The unfortunate thing is that the delay is sending out the message that those who go furthest to enhance the environment are not a key priority for government."

Irish Independent