Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Department of Agriculture and Food
Direct Payment Schemes
Question 230: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he plans to cap farm payments for the biggest beneficiaries under the various schemes; if he will in future disallow applications from processors such as meat factories and major dairy companies, as it is recognised that these schemes should be for producers involved in agriculture, such as farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43193/10]
Under current EU rules there are no provisions available for capping farm payments or for excluding applicants with entitlement to these payments. In the context of discussions on the future of the CAP after 2013, there are suggestions that an upper ceiling be introduced on direct payments received by large individual farms. I am open to considering such a ceiling but before taking a final position I will need to see the overall package of proposals including the detailed proposals on ceilings.
By way of clarification, the bulk of EU funding payable to the agri-food industry in Ireland comprises market support measures such as intervention, aids to private storage and export refunds as distinct from direct payments made to Irish farmers under the Single Payment scheme.
Question 231: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the situation in south Galway where areas of rough land similar to the Burren area were included for grant aid after an application classification was changed, causing up to 40% penalty; if he will introduce an amnesty for this year due to the change occurring after application date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43195/10]
Under the provisions of the governing EU Regulations, payments under the Single Farm Payment may be made only in respect of eligible land and applicants under the scheme are obliged annually to declare the land parcels available to them; details of the eligible area of the land parcels are recorded on LPIS the Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS), my Department's computer-based land parcel tracking system. Details of the use and area claimed for each of some one million parcels on the LPIS system are registered and continually monitored by my Department.
No changes have been made with regard to the classification of eligible areas under the Single Farm Payment. Historically, the vast majority of scheme applicants have been making sufficient deductions from their claims to take account of such areas in that they reduced the area claimed. However, in many cases as no mapping evidence supporting these deductions were provided, the ineligible features were not, therefore, recorded onto LPIS. As LPIS underpins all the direct payments, worth in excess of €1.8 billion annually, it is crucial that it accurately reflects the true position on the ground, particularly given the audit scrutiny that this scheme attracts not just in Ireland but also in all member states.
As you are aware, these schemes are fully and partially funded by the European Union and the relevant Competent Authorities in each member state are obliged to ensure that the requirements of the governing EU Regulations are observed and that only valid applications that fully comply with the requirements are paid. The administration of these schemes in each member state is subjected to close scrutiny by officials of the EU Commission and the EU Court of Auditors to ensure that the regulatory requirements are met and that the schemes are applied in a uniform manner across the European Union.
Each year in advance of the closing date for the Single Payment scheme, my Department sends pre-printed application forms (which include a list of parcels declared by the applicant in question the previous year) to each applicant. It is the responsibility of all applicants to ensure that the details in each year's application are accurate. As a further aid to farmers, my Department issued maps of all lands parcels in early 2010. Applicants were advised of the need to carefully review these maps and to make the appropriate deductions, if any, to the area of eligible parcels as necessary. For example, where a house or other building has been constructed, farmers are required to submit maps outlining the exclusion with their applications to allow accurate deductions to be made. It is also necessary for applicants to exclude ineligible features such as scrub, roadways, etc. Therefore, the LPIS database has to be amended on an ongoing basis to reflect any permanent changes such as parcel boundary changes, addition of new parcels, etc.
This year some 70,000 farmers submitted maps identifying ineligible areas. Work on the digitisation of the land parcels identified in on-going in my Department. When this work is complete very significant and essential progress will have been achieved in updating the LPIS. If any applicant is not satisfied with the outcome of digitising in respect of any of their land parcels declared, for example, where an over-claim is established, that person is given an opportunity to appeal the decision to my Department.