Next Monday, May 16, is the BPS application deadline. Avoid these pitfalls which landed applicants in trouble last year.

It’s that time of the year again to send in your Basic Farm Payment application, if you haven’t already.

A time of scratching heads, biro crunching and talking to neighbours about how much of a nuisance the whole business actually is.

For many, of course, it is with great relief that we hand the job over to a farm adviser to make sense of it all.

But alas, even with the greatest of heads, problems can arise and tempers can flare.

Mistakes, errors and difficulties are part and parcel of what makes the farm payment schemes such fun.

And when problems do arise, for many it’s to the phones we go, and to the Department trying to solve the mystery wrapped in the riddle. 

For some, it’s to their public representative that they head, who in many cases will take their problems all the way to the Dail.

Here is a sample of recent questions posed to our now former Minister, Simon Coveney. 

Questions that just might help some farmers still wrestling with their applications before the May 16 deadline, to avoid pitfalls.

We will start with sheep and the importance of not being asleep when it comes to counting the sheep.

* A Cork farmer wanted to know why he had not received full payment under the single payment, disadvantaged area payment and grassland sheep schemes?

In the Dail, Minister Coveney responded, “Under EU Regulations, all flock owners and sheep keepers are obliged to count the sheep in their flock and on their holding. 

They are also legally obliged to return this number to my Department via the annual Sheep and Goat Census Return... My Department’s records confirm that no 2014 Sheep Census has been received from the person named. 

Therefore, no payment is due under the ANC scheme.

* And sending in your sheep census late will not suffice either, as in this case where a question was asked as to when his farmer might receive, “all outstanding payments.” 

The answer alas, looked like never, with the Minister responding, “The December 2014 Sheep Census had an initial closing date of 30 January 2015. This closing date was extended to 31 May 2015 for ANC payment purposes. 

"Payment did not issue under the 2015 Area of Natural Constraints Scheme in this case as the Sheep Census return of the person named was not received until after the closing date.”

* Another Basic Payment Scheme applicant couldn’t see the wood from the trees, or should that be the wood from the furze – and the Department of Agriculture eventually diagnosed myopia, seven years on. 

Minister Coveney said, “On processing of the 2015 Basic Payment Scheme application, it was identified that a forestry parcel was not eligible for payment, as it was claimed as scrub in 2008. 

"On further examination, it has been identified that this parcel was incorrectly paid for Single Payment in 2011, 2012 and 2013. A process of recoupment of these overpayments will now be initiated.”

* Next, a lagoon mess cost a farmer 60% of payments. Here was the Minster’s account.

“The persons named were the subject of a nitrates inspection on 26 February 2015. This inspection identified breaches with the cross compliance requirements under the Nitrates Regulations... with regard to an unlined earth banked lagoon leading to direct discharge of slurry and soiled water to ground water. 

"As similar breaches under the Nitrates Regulations had been identified within the previous three years, the regulatory provisions required that the rules on re-occurrence be applied, and also the breach was deemed to be intentional. 

"This resulted in an overall penalty of 60% applied against the 2015 Direct Schemes payments.”

* Now, convergence has further muddied the waters.

One farmer learned how in Minister Coveney’s Dail reply: “The number of entitlements to be allocated to any one farmer under the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015 is based on the number of eligible hectares declared in 2013 or 2015, whichever is lesser. 

"The person named declared 41.72 hectares of eligible land in 2013 and, in 2015 declared 41.15 hectares. Therefore he has been allocated 41.15 entitlements. 

"The 2015 value of entitlements is based on a fixed percentage of the total value of entitlements owned by the farmer in 2014 plus the value of any payment received under the Grassland Sheep Scheme in that year. The person named had an entitlement value of €20,012.38 in 2014.

Under EU Regulations governing the Basic Payment Scheme all entitlements are subject to the process of internal convergence whereby the value of entitlements for some farmers will increase over the period 2015 -2019, while for others, the value will decrease so that all farmers will reach at least 60% of the average value of entitlements by 2019. The estimated average value of entitlements in 2019 is €174. 

As the value of entitlements for the person named is above the estimated national average value of entitlements, he is subject to a reduction in the value of his entitlements under the internal convergence process. 

In 2015, the person named has established 41.15 entitlements with an estimated unit value of €311.08. This gives a total entitlement value including the greening payment of €18,451.58.

* In another convergence case, the Minister was asked why this farmer’s payment had dropped by €1,200.

“The person named declared 32.48 hectares of eligible land in 2013 and in 2015 declared 32.44 hectares, therefore he has been allocated 32.44 entitlements in respect of 2015.

The 2015 value of entitlements is based on a fixed percentage of the total value of entitlements owned by the farmer in 2014 plus the value of any payment received under the Grassland Sheep Scheme in that year. The person named had an entitlement value of €8,956.22 in 2014.

In 2015 the person named has established 32.44 entitlements with a unit value of €181.05. 

As this unit value for the person named is above the National Average, his entitlements will be subject to a gradual reduction from 2015 to 2019. For 2015, the total value of his Basic Payment Scheme entitlements and greening is €8,467.22.


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