Farewell to the Single Payment. Some farmers are glad to see the back of it

After 12 years, it’s being replaced. About time. Filling in the form had become a complicated mess.

With the introduction of the Basic Payment Scheme, we can bid a fond farewell to the Single Payment Scheme.

Drafted 12 years ago to deliver €1.2bn of annual EU funding to us farmers, in an efficient and less complicated way, the Single Payment Scheme started out full of promise. Alas, over time, complications crept in.

In the final years, completion of the application form without the help of a good farm adviser was lunacy.

And only after the form had been blessed by the parish priest would you be comfortable posting it off to Portlaoise.

Now, as we face a bright future with a new-fangled scheme, let’s look back at the problems that farmers had with the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

The best place to investigate is Dail Eireann (many farmers go right to the top, to the local TD, to ask him or her to bring their SPS problem to the attention of the Agriculture Minister).

Take the example of the Limerick farmer, whose review of his 2013 single payment was the subject of a parliamentary question by Dan Neville, TD, to the minister. The farmer had failed to co-operate with an inspection that had been arranged for April 26, 2013.

On April 25, the farmer contacted the inspecting officer to inform him that he would not allow the inspection.

The farmer was informed that failure to co-operate would result in a nil payment. But he refused, and a 100% penalty was imposed.

In an appeal, medical evidence was provided. However, it was determined that there were no grounds, as the farmer had been admitted to, and discharged from, hospital some 18 days prior to the date of the inspection.

No further medical evidence was provided to indicate that the farmer was not in a fit state to welcome such a visitor onto the farm.

Next, a case with a good deal of money at play. Pat Breen, TD, on behalf of a Co Clare farmer, asked the minister what was happening to his single payment.

A review of this farmer’s application had indicated an over-declaration of 51.32%. As this over-claim exceeded 20%, no payment was issued to the farmer. The farmer had received payments of €5,194.26 in October, 2013, and €4,487.38 in December. And a payment of €2,879.70 under the 2013 Disadvantaged Area Based Scheme, which was deemed over-paid, and recouped.

But no sum is too small to be troubling the Department, it seems, nor, indeed, a busy TD like Éamon Ó Cuív, who asked the Agriculture Minister to set down the total payment due to a Co Galway farmer.

In this situation, the applicant had received a Single Farm Payment of €802.68 in October, 2013, with the balancing payment of €802.69 issued in December. The farmer was also paid €707.63 under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme in September, 2013.

However, a review of the farmer’s land revealed over-declaration. With the over-declaration greater than 20%, under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme, no payment was due.

However, following a review by the Department, and a visit by a Department official to verify the position on the ground, the over-declaration was found to be between 3% and 20%. So it was decided that €441.03 under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme would, after all, be issued to the farmer.

And here is a case of a Co Cork farmer, not only paying penalties, but also his local property tax. The case was raised in a parliamentary question by Michael Creed, TD, to the minister.

An inspection identified discrepancies between the area declared on the application and the area found, resulting in an over-declaration of between 3% and 20%. Under the terms and conditions of the SPS, this resulted in the 2014 payments being reduced by €1,732.04. And, a sum of €537 was deducted in respect of the local property tax, per an agreement between the farmer and the Revenue Commissioners.

Next is a query regarding a herd owner’s entitlement to the share of a commonage. In this case, the Department requested that the herd owner substantiate his entitlement, in which he claimed 9/60ths of the commonage.

Proof of entitlement was received from the herd owner for 6/60ths of the commonage. Despite further requests, no further proof of entitlement to claim the extra 3/60ths portion of this commonage was received. The applicant’s 2013 payments were reduced accordingly.

Over-claiming again led to Éamon Ó Cuív, TD, asking the Agriculture Minister when payment, under the 2013 single farm and disadvantaged areas schemes, would issue to a farmer in Co Mayo.

A ground-eligibility inspection had identified an over-declaration that was deemed to be intentional. This resulted in no payment issuing in respect of the 2013 schemes.

In addition, the farmer failed to co-operate with elements of the cross-compliance inspection, in relation to cattle identification and registration requirements. Under the terms and conditions of the schemes, this resulted in a 100% penalty being applied to all payments due in respect of 2013.

But it’s not all bad news. The Department has a heart, and will help out where it can. Michael Ring, TD, asked the minister to review a case of a farmer who had continued to maintain that no over-claim had occurred. And, following a complete review, the penalty applied was reduced by 90%. So good news there.

Also, Joe Carey, TD, asked the minister about a 2013 area aid payment for a farmer in Co Clare.

In this case, an over-claim on an application totalling 2.14 hectares was identified, which represented in excess of 20% of the total area. The person named had received a payment of €1,799.81 in October, 2013, which was deemed to be over-paid. Therefore, the amount was recouped.

However, on a further review of the case, the over-claim was reduced to 1.69 hectares, which resulted in a refund of €1,313.14.

And there is always hope, even with a late application. Denis Naughten, TD, made representations for a Co Roscommon farmer, whose application for the 2011 Single Payment Scheme was received by the Department on November 19, 2012.

The closing date was in May, 2011 — so no payment was made. However, following direct contact, by Departmental officials, with the person named, and the submission, in late 2012, of detailed medical evidence on behalf of the farmer, the 100% late penalty was waived.


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