Irish farmers who are being asked by the European Commission to pay back Single Farm Payment monies they have been overpaid should be granted an amnesty, European Parliament member Jim Higgins said during a meeting with Commission officials in Brussels.
He said the farmers had claimed their Single Farm Payments in good faith, using Department of Agriculture maps, but they have now received clawback letters.
Mr Higgins said that an audit of the Irish system of paying the SFP finished on Dec 15, leaving farmers to deal with the clawback letters.
“While I understand the need to audit EU monies, I do not accept the retrospective nature of this audit,” he said.
Mr Higgins said more than 20,000 farmers have received clawback letters dating back to 2008.
“What’s really remarkable is that the EU refuses to reimburse farmers who have underclaimed but they will claw back any overspend,” he said.
However, Mr Higgins said there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
The Commission confirmed that the money from the claw backs must be paid by the member state. The member state then seeks reimbursement from the farmer involved.
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