The group alleges 33,000 farmers were unfairly penalised when farm land which was actively farmed and properly maintained for generations was deemed ineligible and not fit for farming in 2013.
It says this left many small and marginal farmers struggling to survive, having lost vital Single Farm Payment income, and having to pay back retrospective penalties on “over-claimed” land for the previous five years.
The group and their legal representation are confident that their case will be successful, but are carrying out national fundraising for a reserve of at least €100,000, in case their case against the government is lost.
Supporters are asked to contribute €100 each, or whatever they can afford. If the case is won, supporters will be refunded, if they so wish.
Backing for the group has come from Independent Kerry South TD Michael Healy-Rae, among others. He said, “We are putting €100 per farmer into a fund of €100,000 to take a High Court challenge against this, because it is wrong, and it is probably one of the biggest attacks on our farming community that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.”
The bid to legally challenge LPIS penalties was launched by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association in West Cork, and the West Cork Community Alliance.
Mr Healy-Rae said the penalties, for declaring land deemed ineligible for the Single Farm Payment, are the equivalent of people being fined 100% for being 20% wrong. He said farmers are now being told that land with white heather will no longer be eligible for area aid.
Disadvantaged Farmers Legal Challenge meetings have been held in Bantry, Dunmanway, Castletownbere, Ballydehob, Dingle Mart, Kenmare Mart, Cahirciveen Mart, and Ballyvourney.
At Cahirciveen Mart, mart manager Michael Kissane presented a four figure sum for the legal challenge, on behalf of Iveragh Co-Op Mart.
Meetings continue at Co Kerry marts, at Gortatlea on Wednesday, April 8 at 8.30pm, and at Milltown Mart on Tuesday, April 14 at 8.30pm.
Public meetings are planned in April at Athlone, Headford and Ballinasloe in Co Galway, and Six-Mile-Bridge and Ennis in Co Clare.