The ICMSA President, John Comer, has warned that the issue of land eligibility is flaring up yet again and he called on the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, to finally give clear and realistic guidelines that will move the situation forward from the present situation which he described as “absolutely crazy”.
“We cannot have the 2013 situation repeated when farmers received penalties going back a number of years on the basis, we would contend, of very questionable changes in the interpretation of regulations. And we here we are back again, just two years later, with the same problems flaring up. The level of detail now required is bordering on the ridiculous, it’s time-consuming for the farmer, the advisor and the Department and any sane observer would have to seriously question the benefit and the associated cost of requiring this level of detail” he said.
“We have the ongoing craziness where – in a year that the Department has itself identified as critical – farmers are unsure regarding the requirements for eligibility, where many have received maps from the Department that are, according to the farmers, clearly wrong with, for example, roadways put in where there are no roadways. We have still another category of farmers in designated land areas being told by one state agency that their land is ineligible, while another state agency is telling them that it should be eligible under EU regulations, with the farmers caught in the middle and having to make a decision that will determine their payment level up to 2020. This is unfair, stressful, and it needs to be addressed immediately”, continued Mr Comer.
Mr. Comer noted that land eligibility issues are a particular problem for farmers in poorer land areas and he wondered whether those responsible at EU level had any appreciation of the difficulties and challenges varying from year to year for those farming poorer quality land.
“Every week ICMSA is in contact with farmers in SAC/SPA areas who have received letters from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) stating that their land should remain eligible for payment while at the same time, and in relation to the exact same land, the Department of Agriculture, Food & Marine have imposed heavy penalties on these farmers. We met with Commissioner Hogan in December and raised this particular issue and he categorically stated that the state agencies should have a consistent view on this matter and it was incumbent upon the state to get its house in order. What we have is one state agency telling farmers to remove scrub, etc., to make the land eligible while another state agency is prohibiting the farmer from doing exactly what the first agency ordered. This cannot continue and the Minister Coveney has to intervene and clearly state the position before this becomes even more crazy”, said Mr. Comer.
Mr. Comer finished by saying that though the situation was, in the first instance, a matter for the immediate attention of the Department, the possible financial effects were so great that concerned farmers should consider seeking professional advice for their cases.
Ends 10 April 2015.
John Comer, 087-2057846
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office