Land eligibility complaints soar

Frustrations of farmers in the south-west ‘where the LPIS review has been particularly savage’

‘Move to raise funds for possible legal challenge against what farmers see as a totally unfair and unjust process’

Sligo News File Online

ICSA Land eligibility was the primary focus of a packed public meeting hosted by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association in Athlone on Friday April 10th. 

Speakers included MEPs Luke Ming Flanagan, Mairead McGuinness and Marian Harkin, along with local TDs Denis Naughten and Michael Fitzmaurice. 

According to ICSA Roscommon chairman, Ger Grehan, the land eligibility question is a very serious one affecting many farmers around the country. “I was delighted to see so many of our public representatives present to hear at first hand about the difficulties being experienced by farmers. Action must be taken to speed up the remaining 2013 appeals and to clarify the process going forward.

“I’ve spoken to some farmers who didn’t appeal what they perceived to be unfair penalties because they simply couldn’t afford the resulting delay in their single payment. They needed to pay bills urgently and so were forced to accept this financial loss along with the consequences for future payments. This is an unacceptable situation.”

Speaking at the meeting, ICSA general secretary Eddie Punch said that the LPIS review process was completely unfair. 

“When over 10,000 people appeal the outcome of any regulatory or legislative process, it is clear that something is badly wrong,” he asserted.  He added that the appeals process had taken far too long.  “Justice delayed is justice denied.  Many of the farmers who appealed penalties applied to their 2013 Single Payment have only seen the ground inspections carried out in the first three months of 2015 and even yet, there are outstanding cases.  In addition, farmers who have been fully or partially successful in appealing overclaims are still waiting to receive the money wrongly withheld.”

There were repeated complaints at the meeting that farmers cannot be expected to apply for a scheme where there is such uncertainty about land eligibility and at the same time risk huge penalties. 

ICSA West Cork chairman Dermot Kelleher outlined the frustrations of farmers in the south-west where the LPIS review has been particularly savage.  He said that there was a move to raise funds for a possible legal challenge against what farmers saw as a totally unfair and unjust process.  He said that a group, describing itself as the Disadvantaged Farmers’ group, were actively seeking financial support for a legal challenge to unfair penalties.   He outlined particularly unfair cases where there seemed to be several different and contradictory views from officials sources at Department and EU level  regarding the percentage eligibility of mountain type land held by farmers in West Cork and Kerry.  

The meeting was also attended by representatives of the Forgotten Farmers, a group of young farmers who cannot be facilitated by the National Reserve at present as they have been farming since before October 2008 but missed out on the entitlement reference period of 2000-2002, and who are supported by ICSA.

“This is not about people just looking for easy entitlements – these are industrious young farmers who have built up an enterprise and have a track record of hard work”,  said Ger Grehan.

“They cannot simply be left out in the cold while everyone else is catered for, and ICSA is calling on the Minister to address this anomaly.”