Farm Ireland

Monday 11 December 2017

Farm family removed from environment scheme for planting the wrong trees despite tragedy

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A family which was removed from a Department of Agriculture agri-enviroment scheme has lost their complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman.

The family made an application to the Department in May, 2011 and it contained the minimum requirements of one mandatory and one complementary undertaking. 

They chose halting biodiversity decline by planting species rich grassland and tree planting and met the eligibility requirements under the Scheme. 

Applicants were entitled to reimbursement of non-productive capital investments up to a certain maximum limit and the family submitted their application in August, 2012. 

The Department discovered that they had planted a non native species of tree (sycamore) which was excluded from the AEOS2 scheme. 

As a result of this, they failed to the eligibility requirements of the scheme and their contract was terminated. 

Their appeal to the Agriculture Appeals Office was refused.

The father, who had been the farmer, had become ill and died between the time they had submitted the application and the trees had been planted. 

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His son in law had purchased the trees from a local nursery, who had recommended sycamores. 

This species of tree had been included in the first AEOS Scheme but was excluded from the second Scheme because they were not a native species as required under EU regulations. 

It had been claimed at the appeal that they had received the wrong list of trees with their application, i.e. that the list for AEOS1 was sent rather than AEOS2 but this was denied by the Department. 

No evidence was presented to support this claim at the appeal or to this Office.

As there was no evidence of maladministration on the part of the Department the Ombudsman did not consider that he could uphold this complaint.

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