Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 25 February 2018

Farmers call for clarity on clawbacks

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Furious farmers have demanded that the Department of Agriculture outline the scale of its clawback on Single Farm Payments (SFP) as concern grows about the potential bill from the ongoing land parcel eligibility review.

Some 950,000 land parcels are included in the land parcel (LPIS) review, which Brussels officials have told Dublin must be completed before December 15.

Clawback demands for €1.4m have already been issued to 4,800 farmers and thousands more letters were sent to farmers in the past week.

Despite the looming deadline, Department officials have failed to provide any information on the scale of the potential clawback.

The panel (below) shows the questions that the Farming Independent has repeatedly asked of the Department of Agriculture:

In response, the Department of Agriculture provided the following statement: "The position is that, as we stand, the Department do not have the specific information sought and won't have for some time."

On Thursday, a Department official dismissed reports that 10,000 letters were sent to farmers last week demanding an additional €2m in clawbacks on 2013 SFP claims.

"The figure of 10,000 is not correct," said a spokes-person for the Department, who added that the correct figure could be higher or lower than 10,000.

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A new appeals committee, chaired by Padraig Gibbons, chairman of Aurivo, has been set up to deal with farmers who disagree with the Department's findings.

Speaking in the Dáil, the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the land parcel review had made it "necessary to adjust land parcels of a significant number of applicants, where it was established that some ineligible features had been included".

While he again insisted that the review was necessary to claim Ireland's €1.5bn of farm payments, he still did not outline the scale of the problem.

ICMSA president John Comer said farmers were increasingly concerned about the extent of land parcel review.

"Why are farmers being penalised back to 2008 when the Department approved these applications in those particular years and paid the farmers accordingly?" Mr Comer asked.

DEDUCTIONS

"Now in 2013, five years after the event in some cases, the Department is applying deductions and penalties, substantial in some cases, and are requiring immediate repayment even before the farmer gets the opportunity to appeal," he added.

"No other sector of society would be subjected to such checks as farmers are now."

Mr Comer called on Minister Coveney to set out the extent of the problem immediately and to re-negotiate a reasonable resolution with the EU Commission.

"It is simply not fair to penalise farmers five years after the event simply because the Department and EU Commission have improved technology. If technology improves again in five years' time, will we again be subject to such look backs? This is a ridiculous situation and cannot be allowed to continue," he insisted.

Irish Independent