Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Dept holds back REPS payments as queries sent back to planners

Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

PAYMENTS to thousands of REPS farmers have been delayed because plans have had to be returned to the original planners to be amended.

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that, in a "significant number" of cases, administrative checks on REPS applications had raised issues and queries that required further detailed examination.

The Agricultural Consultants' Association (ACA) says one of the issues refers to phosphate calculations, which it says were incorrect on the Department's e-REPS system and did not tally with figures on hard-copy plans.

ACA president Pat Minnock said this issue had become apparent when applications were submitted last year but was not addressed by the Department.

"There may be other areas where the planner made mistakes, but part of the discrepancies would have come about because the instructions from the Department were unclear.

"When we were putting the plans together last year, a lot of the queries we had did not get an official response from the Department.

"This might come down to a different interpretation of the specifications," Mr Minnock claimed.

A Department spokesperson said payments had been going out steadily since mid-December but, in order to meet the requirements of EU regulations, applications had to go through an exhaustive series of administrative checks before the payments could be released.

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"Officials are working to resolve these as quickly as possible," the spokesperson said.

"Many of these cases will, however, require the applicants' planners to amend the farm plans that were submitted originally.

"The persons concerned have been made aware of the position and the applications will be further processed without delay on receipt of amended plans."

The ACA said the closure of Department offices and the 'work to rule' by Department staff hadn't helped speed up payments.

So far only 65pc of REPS applicants have received payment. However, some farmers have received 75pc of what is due and are still awaiting the balance.

The ICMSA claimed the delay had caused additional hardship to already cash-strapped farmers.

ICMSA deputy president John Comer called on Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith to intervene to make sure all payments were made without further delay.

"Farmer anxiety is growing daily, with many under severe financial pressure due to a significant lack of cashflow on farms," Mr Comer said.

Irish Independent