Farm Ireland

Sunday 21 January 2018

Fines from land parcel review to average €380

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Penalties for farmers under the land parcel review are expected to come in under €10m, according to the latest estimates from the Department of Agriculture.

Approximately 25,000 farmers face penalties ranging from less than €50 to over €10,000 in the review of 900,000 land parcels by the department.

The average penalty is expected to be close to €380 per farmer. However, this amount does not take into account the possibility of the fines for some farmers being multiplied fivefold if the Department moves to impose the penalties retrospectively.

If fines are over a certain threshold percentage of a farmer's total Single Farm Payment (SFP), the Department are holding out the possibility that they will move to claw back the same amount from the SFP for every year back to 2009.

However, Department officials were not in a position to confirm whether or how this would be implemented.

The land parcel identification system review was sparked by an EU Commission audit that started earlier this year.

Department officials are convinced that if they didn't pursue the over-claims that fines of more than €100m would eventually be levied on all Irish farmers by the EU.

Although Ireland has paid more than €25m in CAP fines and penalties to the EU since 2004, it has the sixth lowest level of penalties as a percentage of CAP income among the 27 Member States. However, the Department's Single Payment boss, Paud Evans, said that his team was in the process of "cross compensating" many of the farmers involved.

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"By re-examining the entire eligible areas on farms, we can add back in land that farmers make have over-looked," said Mr Evans.

Mr Evans expects the process, due to take place over the coming weeks, to take "thousands of farmers" out of a situation where they were facing penalties.

"It's impossible to say, but we're hopeful that this process could reduce the total penalties to closer to €9m by the time we're finished," he added.

Of the 900,000 land parcels reviewed by the Department, 300,000 were found to have issues surrounding land eligibility.

More than 40,000 letters were subsequently sent to farmers notifying them of the irregularities.

However, many of the recipients had more than enough land to still cover their entitlement claim.

Some counties fared worse than others, with as many as half of all of Kerry's 8,000 farmers receiving letters to say that they had over-claimed on their land area.

Irish Independent