Farm Ireland

Monday 19 March 2018

Thousands face SFP wait until New Year

Processing of land parcel maps is continuing to cause delays

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Thousands of farmers will have to wait until the New Year for the remainder of their single farm payment (SFP) because of continuing delays in the digitisation of land parcel maps.

The Department of Agriculture has admitted that the processing of land parcel identification system (LPIS) maps will not be completed until early next year.

While a Department statement insisted that the mapping difficulties need not delay the delivery of advance payments to farmers, all maps will have to be cleared before balancing payments can be issued.

Farm organisations now fear that the delivery of remaining SFP payments to thousands of farmers will be hit. Payment of the second 50pc of the SFP, which is worth €635m, is due to commence on December 1. However, the release of these funds will be restricted to those applicants whose maps have been fully cleared.

In the case of 50pc SFP advance, only farmers who had maps cleared for more than half of their eligible land received the full payment.

More than 25,000 farmers have not been paid their full Disadvantaged Area Scheme (DAS) payment, which suggests that there are mapping delays with these applications.

Payment of the second 50pc instalment of the SFP cannot be made to these farmers until their maps have been processed and cleared.

According to Department figures, the number of herds with maps for redigitising is 32,495. On average, two maps were submitted with each application.

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Close to 3,000 applications with maps, including inspection cases, are being processed on a weekly basis, the Department confirmed.

"The Department is confident that the unprecedented level of maps received will be processed by early 2011," the Department claimed.

Close to €170m has been paid to 88,478 farmers under the DAS. Around 10,000 farmers have received no DAS monies but this figure includes 8,360 who are ineligible because their stocking density was too low. A further 25,363 have received a part payment.

Given that there are 100,000 farmers eligible for the DAS, the number of applicants who have been fully paid is close to 63,000 or 63pc of the total.

In excess of €507m had been paid out to 108,845 farmers under the SFP by the end of last week, with the Department maintaining that 90pc of applications had been processed.

A total of 12,640 farmers have not received any SFP payment. The Department claimed this stemmed mainly from errors in their claims or issues regarding eligibility.

While the number of farmers part paid the SFP advance is unclear, the figure has to be substantial given that €130m of the total 50pc advance has yet to be paid out. €50m in DAS monies has also to be paid out.

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith strongly defended the performance of Department staff in the delivery of payments to farmers.

He pointed out that €677m had been paid out to more than 110,000 under the SFP and DAS in the last six weeks.

Farmers who had not received an SFP advance due to mapping difficulties would receive a supplementary advance payment once their maps were processed, the minister added.

"The number of [LPIS] maps submitted by farmers is three times the number submitted normally and this is placing a considerable strain on resources," Mr Smith admitted.

He claimed that the requirement to redigitise LPIS maps was driven by a tightening in EU regulations with which the Department had to comply.

"Any failings or shortcomings in LPIS would leave the Department open to the very real risk of significant fines. I am not prepared to take such a risk and I will not compromise the value of direct payments to Irish farmers," Mr Smith said.

He added that the Department's record in processing applications and making payments was "equal to or better than" any other member state.

Irish Independent