New maps showing land eligibility changes for all payment scheme applicants this year have been ruled out by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney.
He was asked in the Dáil last week by Fianna Fáil agriculture spokesman Éamon Ó Cuív if he would re-issue maps sent to farmers, with reference areas re-calculated, under the new pro rata system for exclusion of scrub land.
Mr Coveney said the new pro-rata system and the Reduction Coefficient for land parcels with scattered scrub are fully explained in the Land Eligibility booklet which is being issued to all farmers.
“In essence, the assessment will be undertaken at parcel level following the exclusion of all areas which are fully ineligible.
“The creation of new reference areas for a significant number of land parcels across the entire Land Parcel Identification System database is a complex matter, and has to be approached very carefully.
“Significant and systematic testing is required to ensure that the re-calculations are accurate.
“In addition, the printing of new maps for all of these parcels would take some time.
“The creation of new reference areas for parcels would mean that new parcel identification numbers would need to be allocated to the altered parcels.
“Such significant data changes at this stage of the 2015 application period would pose a risk to the farmers or their agents submitting applications under the Basic Payment Scheme, the Greening Payment and GLAS.
“Given the timelines and the risks involved, it would not be possible to issue new maps to all of the applicants involved at this stage.”
The Disadvantaged Farmers Legal Challenge group commended Minister Coveney “for finally taking the first steps to address the land eligibility issues”.
But the group said it will continue to campaign and fund-raise on behalf of farming families to legally challenge land eligibility regulations.
In a press statement, the group said many aspects of the land eligibility regulations remain unresolved.
It said the Minister failed to reverse unjust retrospective fines imposed on farmers in 2013, and made no concession for farmers penalised in the 2013 Single Payment Scheme.
According to the group, many of these farmers would have benefited from the tolerances in the new eligibility guidelines; but instead they have been penalised and have less eligible land for payments in the new CAP regime.
Department of Agriculture officials have indicated that changes such as the new pro-rata system will not affect the determinations already made in some of the 10,000 appeals by farmers against ineligibility on 33,000 land parcels. Officials said the appeals process included verification checks, and there is no basis on which to revisit them.
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