Hundreds of landowners cashing in on €1 million donkey dividend
New figures show that a massive €1m per year is being paid out of the Disadvantaged Area scheme to landowners with nothing more than donkeys on their land.
The shocking revelation from the Department of Agriculture comes in the same week new concerns have arisen over funding for the €195m scheme.
Last year €994,328 was paid to 550 landowners with donkeys only, or over €1,800 per applicant. In 2013, the amount was even higher at €1.02m. An additional €59,943 was paid to 24 landowners with both donkeys and horses, along with a further €723,273 to landowners with horses only. It brings the total amount paid out to landowners with either donkeys or horses only to €1.778m, or €1,772 per applicant.
Concern is growing in the ICMSA that the Disadvantaged Area scheme, or Areas of Natural Constraint as it is now known, will require an extra €10m-€15m to cover landowners that have been readmitted to the scheme under new lower stocking-rate requirements.
Minimum stocking rates were increased from 0.3 to 0.15 livestock units per hectare in 2011, but these limits were rowed back on over the last year under pressure from farming representatives.
Some 75,000 farmers benefit from the Disadvantaged Area to a maximum of €3,000 per farm.
Noel Carton of the Donkey Sanctuary said they would prefer if the Department inspectors insisted on good facilities and only non-breeding donkeys qualifying for the payment.
"We know of cases where donkeys are parked on out-farms simply to maximise farm payments, and neglect can be an issue," said Mr Carton.