AGRICULTURE Minister Brendan Smith has praised farmers for their “remarkable” response to his department’s campaign earlier this year to bring the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) up-to-date by mapping ineligible features.
He said the number of maps requiring re-digitisation has increased significantly in previous years.
“It was anticipated that the vast majority of scheme applicants had been making sufficient allowance for these ineligible areas on their claims, however, as these areas were not recorded on my department’s LPIS mapping database, action was required, as the risk of substantial EU dis-allowances is very real.”
The LPIS shows the farm outlines of all land held by farmers who applied for support payments from the EU. This data is held electronically on the Department of Agriculture’s computers. The maps are updated annually.
The authorities in the North are spending £4.8 million (€5.7m) on correcting the maps in their LPIS, following a £31m disallowance fine by the EU due to farmer payment discrepancies from 2004 to 2006.
Here, Mr Smith has linked the increased need for map re-digitisation to more complex and slower processing of applications. This was behind his decision to pay only a 75% advance, beginning this week, instead of the usual full disadvantaged area payments.
The EU requires that applications be entirely processed before the full payments can be made. Because of delays in processing an estimated 20,000 payment applications, many more farmers will get an advance payment than could have been paid in full.
The 75% disadvantaged payment will be followed from October 18 with 50% of the single payment; from November 4 with the 25% disadvantaged payment; from December 1 with the other 50% of the single payment; and from December 8 with the grassland sheep payment.
Mr Smith is confident that almost €1.5 billion will be paid to farmers before December 31.
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