Minister for Agriculture wins appeal over repayment of €124k to farmer
The Minister for Agriculture has won his appeal over an order requiring him to pay €124,453, plus interest, to a farmer who had overstated the area of his lands eligible under the Single Payment Scheme.
The Court of Appeal quashed the High Court order made in favour of Michael O'Connor, who farms lands at Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
The High Court made that order after finding errors in how regulations related to the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) for farmers were applied and in how a Department appeals officer decided Mr O'Connor's application under the SPS.
Both the Minister and Mr O'Connor appealed aspects of the High Court decision.
Giving the COA judgment on Thursday, Mr Justice Michael Peart said the SPS is an EU scheme, implemented by each member state, which rewards farmers who conduct their farming activities to a minimum standard.
After Mr O'Connor applied under the scheme in 2010, inspections of his lands found he had significantly overstated the area eligible for the SPS.
They found he failed to made adequate deductions concerning some parcels and included an area of commonage where there was no farming activity and which the inspectors considered was not maintained in good agricultural condition as required under the scheme. Certain animal tagging issues were also raised.
It was ultimately concluded he had overdeclared his lands and he was also informed there would be a 5 per cent sanction arising from the animal tagging.