More of the farmers who have been in dispute with the Department of Agriculture for years may be encouraged to go the legal route by a recent High Court ruling that the Department of Agriculture’s inspection of land for basic payment qualification was procedurally flawed.
The procedural flaws identified included the department not presenting the farmer a record of inspection for signature, nor an inspection report, as required by EU law.
The department was also found to have not documented the need for further inspections, nor addressed valid issues in the appeals process.
Breaches of the Farmers Charter and Action Plan 2009-2011 agreed with IFA were also identified.
The case related to the farmer’s payment entitlements in 2010.
Long-running disputes of this kind are not unusual, between farmers and the Department of Agriculture.
In one case raised recently in the Dáil, Longford-Westmeath Fianna Fáil TD Robert Troy raised the plight of a farmer appealing the department more than four years previously.
A 60% penalty had been applied against a farmer’s 2012 Direct Schemes payments, because TB reactor animals were left in the herd for over a year, and the consequential herd test went six months overdue.
This stemmed from an inspection on May 31, 2012, by ERAD veterinary inspectors, whose findings were referred to the department’s Cross Compliance Unit. The farmer was notified in February, 2013.
The farmer was notified in September, 2014 that the original inspection decision was upheld.
The farmer’s next step was to appeal to the independent Agriculture Appeals Office, and following this appeal an oral hearing was held.
The farmer then learned in January 2015 that the Appeals Officer disallowed his appeal, and was also advised that if they considered that they had been treated unfairly by that office, it was open to them to raise the matter with the Office of the Ombudsman.
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