Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

'Two months' to sort AEOS payment delay

Computer problems spark IFA demands for manual action

Declan O'Brien

Declan O'Brien

Computer problems in the Department of Agriculture that are delaying €8m in payments to AEOS farmers could take up to two months to fix, the IFA has claimed.

The association has called on the Department of Agriculture to immediately switch to manual payments for the 8,600 farmers affected by the computer programming difficulties.

Tom Turley, of the IFA's rural development committee, said the problem came to light during recent discussions with Department officials.

"Some €8m is owed to 8,600 farmers and it is not acceptable that these payments cannot be made until a computer programme is set up," Mr Turley said. "Minister Coveney must now instruct the Department to pay these farmers manually, as it is clear from recent discussions with the Department that it could be another two months before the computer programme is ready," he insisted.

Mr Turley described the delay in payments as particularly galling since the AEOS farmers had already incurred significant costs in carrying out works under the scheme.

A Department statement on the AEOS payments stressed that administrative checks on all participants must be completed before individual payments are issued.

"Many applicants re-digitised land parcels in order to join the scheme and until these are finalised it is not possible for compliance checks to be completed," the Department stated.

The Department also confirmed that AEOS inspections were ongoing and would not be completed until the middle of May. Up to 5pc of all participants in AEOS must be inspected.

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Meanwhile, more than €30m has yet to be paid to more than 5,150 REPS 4 farmers.

Department officials said that a number of farmers had not yet submitted soil samples, training certificates and adjusted plans that were required before they could be validated for payment.

"These payments will be dealt with as soon as these farmers resolve their outstanding issues," the Department stated.

In addition, approximately 1,300 participants have issues arising from the cross-check with single farm payment applications (SFP) but the Department insisted that these would be resolved in the next two weeks.

The Department said that there were also farmers who had not yet been cleared for the SFP and these could not be processed for a REPS payment until a full cross-check with SFP was carried out.

In other payments news, around 6,000 farmers are awaiting payment under the Dairy Efficiency Programme (DEP). A Department spokesman indicated last week that the process of assessing applications was almost complete. However, there was no further update as we went to press.

The DEP has a budget of €6m for each year of its three-year duration. The payment for each successful applicant from last year will be just short of €1,000 each. There is a suggestion that the programme could be opened to new applicants this year, which would reduce the payment per farmer.

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