Payment penalties vary by up to 400pc nationwide
SFP and DAS fines FOUR times higher in Waterford than Kildare or Cavan
An independent review of the entire farm payment system has been demanded following the revelation that penalties varied by 400pc between counties last year.
Over 6,000 farms suffered penalties totalling over €4.5m from their Single Farm Payments (SFP) and Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) last year.
The cuts varied from county to county, with Waterford farmers suffering the heaviest average Single Farm Payment penalty of €1,867 - four times the average penalty in counties such as Kildare and Cavan.
The DAS penalty average of €265 in Louth and Kerry was 2.5 times bigger than the €120 average in counties Westmeath, Longford, Waterford and Dublin.
The likelihood of farmers being hit with penalties also doubled from county to county.
For example, SFP applicants in the southeast counties of Waterford, Kilkenny and Tipperary, along with Clare, Wicklow and Dublin were twice as likely to incur SFP fines as those in Donegal, Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, or Offaly.
However, the range was relatively narrow, from 2pc of applicants penalised in Longford, up to 4.4pc in Wicklow.
The percentage of farmers getting penalised in DAS was almost double this, even though the actual penalties were much smaller.
Dublin was an exception with one in eight DAS applicants incurring penalties.
Leitrim was the next worst, with 7.8pc of applicants getting payments deducted.
In contrast with the SFP, Waterford DAS applicants got off lightest with just 4.6pc of applicants being fined for non-compliance.
In total, farmer payments under the SFP were reduced by €3.3m, while another €1.16m was lost through the DAS fines. The average SFP penalty was €880 per farmer, while the average DAS fine was €177.
Independent TD, Denis Naughten, said the figures highlighted an "urgent need to overhaul the system".
"I am calling for an independent review of the whole inspection regime in the country, to ensure fairness and transparency in the system.
"The scale of the variation cannot all be accounted for by farm size," he said.
"We currently have a totally unacceptable situation where the county in which you farm has as much to do with the level of penalties you may face as the actual implementation of the Department of Agriculture rules," stated Deputy Naughten.
"If this was the Leaving Certificate would we accept a situation where the pass rate in maths or English varied by 400pc based on what county you lived in?" he asked.
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