The threat of land eligibility inspections is now a major stress factor for many farmers who are fearful of seeing their incomes being drastically reduced or possibly wiped out on the back of a possible inspection. Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association National Chair Vincent Roddy outlined how farmers throughout the country continue to contact us, often following letters from the department indicating potential cuts to their Basic Payment following inspections. Mr Roddy stated that “for many of these farmers the department are looking at claiming back money for payments already made with one farmer that contacted us looking at a demand in excess of €30,000”
While we have no issue with some of the ineligible features targeted in these inspections such as rock-outcrop, the INHFA believe that forage crops such as heather and seasonal grasses should remain eligible in all stages of its life cycle. Unfortunately this is not the view of the department who continue to make heather over 50cm in height ineligible. “Heather will mature over time even if it is grazed at sustainable levels and least we forget during the winters of 2009 and 2010 it was the higher heather that kept sheep and wildlife alive” stated Mr Roddy.
The increase in the number of people contacting the organisation raises concerns regarding the departments application of new guidelines agreed on land eligibility last April. “These guidelines which were based on EU CAP Regulations that defines agricultural activity is, we believe miss-interpreted, and continues to be applied incorrectly by our department of Agriculture” said Mr Roddy.
However Mr Roddy added “the only place we will get clarity on this issue is in Brussels, which is something we hope to achieve at our meeting with commission officials next week”