Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Dept now targeting 'map acres'

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Department of Agriculture inspectors have embarked on a major clampdown on farmers suspected of renting so-called 'map acres' to activate single farm payment (SFP) entitlements.

Agricultural consultants have reported a significant increase in the number of unannounced inspections on land parcels where it is suspected that farmers are not actively farming the land.

If found guilty of renting maps only, farmers can lose 100pc of their SFP and be forced to pay substantial administrative fines.

Farmers who claim SFP entitlements on land parcels in different counties are being targeted for unannounced farm inspections.

While there are legitimate cases where farmers rent land for SFP purposes in different counties, it appears that a red flag is being raised when those holdings are a considerable distance from one another.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that farmers are renting marginal land with no intention of ever farming it, while some SFP applicants may not even visit the land on which they have made an application.

It is understood that unannounced inspections are being undertaken to find out if the land is being actively farmed. This can take the form of livestock grazing the land or crops such as hay or silage being taken.

If there is no evidence that the land is being actively farmed, the farmer who claims it can be subject to penalties of up to 100pc of their annual SFP payment and administration penalties, which effectively wipe out the SFP for several years.

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One Tipperary agricultural consultant said he was dealing with at least 10 farmers who had been found to be in breach of the rules.

"These farmers tend to be at the upper end of the scale, with SFPs of €600-1,000/ha or a total SFP of €80,000-90,000," he said.

The consultant said Department inspectors were coming down very heavily on farmers found to be renting maps only and not actively farming the rented land.

Limerick-based agricultural consultant David Walsh described the practice of renting maps only as "terribly foolhardy", given the massive penalties and potential fines involved.

"These guys are risking their year's income and even more," he said.

"For example, take a farmer who is claiming entitlements of €60,000 but is found by the Department to only have enough eligible land for €30,000. That farmer will lose his €60,000 SFP and get a penalty of €30,000."

Tralee-based consultant Eddie McQuinn said in some areas of the country that advertisements were being placed in local papers calling for maps to rent.


"In some places it's so common that farmers have started to believe that it's legitimate," Mr McQuinn said. "It's ridiculous."

He added that some farmers were also renting grazing rights without the good land that the grazing rights are attached to.

There have also been unconfirmed reports of maps being rented out by unscrupulous third parties without the knowledge or consent of the landowner.

However, a new rule introduced for this year's SFP applications stipulates that where a farmer submits new land parcels, he must also produce a land folio number, or a lease or rental agreement as evidence that he is the legitimate owner or user of the land.

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