Fines for over-claiming EU payments

CASES of farmers with less than 24 acres being fined up to €10,500 for over-claiming EU payments have been highlighted by public representatives.

Co Cork TDs Christy O’Sullivan and Edward O’Keeffe and Sligo/North Leitrim TD Eamon Scanlon raised the matter at last week’s meeting of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Deputy Scanlon said a claw-back of €10,500 is being sought from a 9.42-hectare (23.28-acre) farmer, one of several affected in his area. The TD said this farmer had engaged Teagasc to help him apply for his EU payments. He claimed 9.3 forage hectares, compared to a digitised area of 9.42 hectares, in four parcels. The Department is seeking a claw-back of money paid over the past five years, having trebled the appropriate fine, because the over-claim is deemed to be in excess of 20%.

Deputy Scanlon said farmers made initial applications in good faith using land registry maps, and they were subjected to various checks and balances down through the years.

Now money was being clawed back, with pensioners among those seeking his help, after they received letters for each of five years in respect of over-claims.

“It affects many people of my area. Some people are getting bills of between €4,000 and €5,000 and this is unfair.”

“These farmers employed Teagasc in good faith to deal with their returns,” said Deputy Scanlon.

He blamed the use of new technology in re-digitising the country for penalising farmers.

West Cork TD Christy O’Sullivan said similar cases were being sorted out in his area. However, he had not come across any case involving the trebling of a fine.

Deputy Edward O’Keeffe said he was familiar with such cases, with some people affected having to pay claw-backs over several years.

Deputies called for Paud Evans from the Department of Agriculture to be brought before the Committee to discuss the problems posed for farmers, and this was agreed by the Committee.


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