Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 November 2017

Second €550m SFP begins but fines loom large

Jim Higgins, MEP
Jim Higgins, MEP
Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

The second tranche of Ireland's €1.2bn Single Farm Payment (SFP) is being posted out to farmers' bank accounts this week.

Over €600m from the SFP, along with an additional €50m for REPS and AEOS environmental schemes will be paid out by the Department of Agriculture over the next seven days.

However, the prospect of up to €20m in over-claim fines looms large as the Brussels imposed deadline of December 15 approaches.

Irish authorities must have a review of all Land Parcel (LPIS) claims for the last seven years completed by this date or face massive penalties.

Meanwhile, an amnesty for farmers from these retrospective fines on their SFP has now been sought by Ireland West MEP Jim Higgins.

Mr Higgins has written to Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos calling for all penalties to be put on hold.

Mr Higgins called on Commissioner Ciolos to allow all land parcel charges to apply to the new CAP rather than the current regime.

Mr Higgins insisted the move to impose retrospective fines on farmers undermined the CAP and farmer confidence.

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"How can we expect farmers to invest in farm innovations when they cannot be sure whether the money granted to them under the CAP will be taken from them in subsequent years?" he said, adding that the penalties undermined the CAP goal of guaranteeing a basic level of income for farmers.

However, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has warned that unless Ireland completes the review and repays money claimed on ineligible land, the State could face a fine of up to €100m that would be imposed on all farmers.

Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness also raised the issue within the European Parliament last week, where she pointed out that there was a vast difference between an error and fraud in a farmer's application. "To make an error is to be human and farmers shouldn't be punished for being human," she told representatives of the European Court of Auditors who were meeting MEPS.

Irish Independent