Tipperary farmers feel strain under BPS red tape

Tipperary Star reporter

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Tipperary farmers feel strain under BPS red tape

ICMSA president John Comer

The huge volume of paperwork sent out by the Department regarding BPS / Greening has been criticised by the deputy president of ICMSA.

The 79-page document which was sent to over 130,000 was described by Tipp Town farmer Pat McCormack as an example of the “bewildering complexity” being faced by farmers.

He called for EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to tackle the issue under his simplification agenda.

“For many farmers, the BPS / Greening payment represents 100 per cent of their annual income and delays or penalties have a very serious impact on their livelihood, with some individuals still awaiting payment of their 2017 entitlement,” he said.

Mr McCormack said that the fact that it took the Department 79 pages to set out the terms and conditions around the legal aspects of the regime was “proof-positive” that the bureauracy around the system was way over-the-top and hopelessly impractical.

“We accept the need for regulation and oversight, but it is quite clear that there are way too many conditions attached to this payment and there are specific problems recurring and causing problems year after year. The simplification agenda being implemented at EU level must focus on resolving these recurring problems,” he said.

Mr McCormack said that at their last meeting with Commissioner Hogan they had put forward a number of proposals in relation to land eligibility, administrative penalties and tolerances that would simplify the regime for farmers, reduce unnecessary penalties and speed up payments.

Among those items presented to the Commissioner was the exclusion of farm roadways from eligible land, which, they said, made no sense as roadways were an essential part of good farming practice and should be regarded as necessary farm infrastructure eligible for payment.

“Our point is that if these obvious and logical changes were accepted and introduced then the whole regime would become much more understandable in a way that would have to result in a speedier processing of payments,” he said.

The ICMSA deputy president noted that the Commissioner was told that farmers welcomed his simplification agenda but they needed to see and experience tangible benefits from this drive and the first target of the simplification agenda must be those recurring problems that year after year cause such frustration and delays.

Meanwhile, IFA deputy president Richard Kennedy led an IFA delegation to meet senior officials in the Department of Agriculture in Portlaoise last week on the 2017 Basic Payment application and associated issues covering inspections, processing and payments.

Mr Kennedy said the application process for the 2017 scheme was now open and he encouraged farmers to apply as soon as possible, and well before the closing date of May 15.

“IFA strongly encourages farmers to apply online as this speeds up processing and payments, and reduces errors. In addition, online applicants have the benefit of the pre-checking facility which is a major help.,” he said.

He pointed out that the BPS scheme application covered the ANC application and was essential for all other schemes.

Last year, out of a total of about 124,312 eligible applications, 102,020 farmers applied online. This year it is hoped to increase that figure by another 10,000 to 15,000 applicants. By 2018 online application will be compulsorily for all applicants.

Mr Kennedy said IFA made it very clear to the Department of Agriculture that all payments must be made on time and in line with the deadlines set down in the Charter of Farmers Rights.

Out of the total of 124,312 eligible applicants in 2016, 99.4 per cent or 123,604 farmers have been paid €1.182bn under the basic payment scheme and greening. Outstanding cases, as they continue to be resolved, are paid through twice weekly payment runs.

Mr Kennedy said that payment delays as a result of Department inspections are not acceptable