Published: Wed, 15 April 2015
Seán Kelly MEP has welcomed calls by the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine that greater clarity must be ensured on the eligibility of marginal land and said that it was “absolutely crucial” that this issue is resolved urgently so that farmers can be assured that will receive their expected direct payments under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
“Direct payments make up a significant part of farm income and the level of uncertainty that we are seeing among farmers as to whether land will be considered eligible or not is unacceptable. Applications are already due at the beginning of next month and farmers find themselves in an extremely difficult position as a result”, stated the Ireland South MEP.
The Committee met yesterday afternoon and were joined by key agricultural stakeholders to discuss the issue. The Committee was told that determining land eligibility was subjective, that farm advisors, department inspectors and EU auditors often differ on how the levels of farm activity is determined on marginal land, and that much of the uncertainty can be attributed to these differences in viewpoints.
“Communication between all officials and stakeholders involved in the process needs to be urgently improved. Talks between these groups to find the best solution are welcome and necessary, as are discussions between the Department and the European Commission. I am pleased to hear that the Department is working hard to solve the problem, however time is not on our side and so I hope that everything will be done to clarify all requirements as soon as possible”, added MEP Kelly.
Farmers across the country are said to be increasingly wary about the risk of being hit with penalties should inspectors find that the proportion of their land which is eligible does not match calculations. Mr. Kelly joined calls to ensure that the difficult positions in which farmers find themselves in in the first year of the new CAP are given due consideration.
“We should not have a situation in which farmers are hit with retrospective penalties in cases in which they done everything they can to correctly determine the eligibility of their land. I hope that officials will look at this issue sensibly and ensure that needless penalties are not handed out”, Kelly concluded.