ICSA rejects Department assurance on payments

Fears grow that digitisation of 60,000 maps will hit SFP cash

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The ICSA has flatly rejected a Department of Agriculture assertion that payments to thousands of farmers had not been disrupted by delays in the digitising of land parcel maps.

ICSA president Gabriel Gilmartin claimed that up to 20,000 farmers were at risk of not getting the full 50pc single farm payment (SFP) advance this week.

It is understood that more than 60,000 maps have still to be digitised, with close to 34,000 farmers affected.

The Department insisted that the digitising process had not held up payment of the 75pc advance in disadvantaged area scheme (DAS) payments, which started on September 22.

Officials also discounted claims that delivery of more than €500m in SFP advances and DAS top-up payments would be disrupted.

A Department spokesperson pointed out that more than €131m has been paid out under the DAS to more than 84,300 farmers and just 14,000 advance payments had yet to be made.

"Approximately 9,300 have area-aid-type errors, including over-claims, dual-claims or are deceased," the Department said.

"The remainder do not yet meet the minimum stocking density requirement of 0.15 livestock units per hectare," the statement added. Department officials also insisted that payments of the 50pc advance in the SFP, which started yesterday, would not be affected by the digitising of maps.

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"Those farmers whose applications are fully processed and clear and farmers whose applications are fully processed but their only problem is a non- digitised map or maps will receive their advance payment on their cleared land," the Department maintained.

However, this statement was challenged by the ICSA and members of the Agricultural Consultants Association.

"ICSA understands that there has been a delay in the digitisation of some 60,000 maps and, as it stands, no payment can be made on parcels awaiting digitisation," Mr Gilmartin said.

"There are also many ongoing cases of payments being held up due to minor area discrepancies."

Limerick-based agricultural consultant David Walsh said some of his farmer clients had not received the full 75pc advance in DAS payments because of problems with maps.

"It is my experience that farmers have only been paid on the area that has been cleared and, generally speaking, this corresponds to the maps that did not require redigitisation," Mr Walsh said.

"The worry that farmers now have is that the same difficulties will apply to the SFP and that the 50pc advance will not be made in full where maps have not been cleared."

Mr Gilmartin called on the Minister for Agriculture, Brendan Smith, to make the 50pc advance on the SFP to all farmers, regardless of whether their maps have been digitised or not, or even where there are questions over the eligible area.

Irish Independent

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