Macra and Dept clash on ERS 'hardship' payments

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

The Department of Agriculture will put arrangements in place to enable more than 170 hardship cases to qualify for the Early Retirement Scheme (ERS), which was closed in October 2008.

However, suggestions that Installation Aid will remain closed for young farmers have angered Macra na Feirme.

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith confirmed that ERS applications which were received prior to the scheme deadline but which were missing supporting paperwork will now be processed.

The minister also stated that farmers whose ERS applications were refused due to the closure of Installation Aid will also qualify for the scheme.

"Rather than exclude these applications, I have decided to give the transferees concerned the opportunity to obtain additional land to enlarge the retiring farmers' holdings and to qualify for the scheme on that basis," Minister Smith said.

However, this move has angered Macra, who claimed it went against a commitment to reopen the Installation Aid scheme.

"This appears to be in direct conflict with the minister's stated commitment to provide an accommodation for the Installation Aid hardship cases. Macra again reiterates its call to the minister to sort out the small number of Installation Aid hardship cases without further procrastination," Macra president Michael Gowing said.

Minister Smith said that when he re-opened the ERS last September, his priority was to accommodate those farmers who had been on the point of applying for the scheme when it was closed.

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"All in all, I believe this is a fair and reasonable solution in these cases.

"My officials will be in direct contact with all the applicants in this group shortly to explain what needs to be done to ensure eligibility for the ERS," Minister Smith added.

Irish Independent

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