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Minister Coughlan announces balancing payments under €1.3 billion 2006 Single Payment Scheme

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today announced the issuing of balancing payments under the 2006 Single Payment Scheme.

The Minister explained that for the majority of applicants under the Single Payment Scheme, these payments, worth in excess of €530 million, represent the balancing 50% payment due under the Scheme and brings the total amount now paid under the 2006 Single Payment Scheme to almost €1.1 billion. "Following my approach to the Commissioner earlier this year, agreement was reached on a 50% advance payment, payable from 16 October last," she said. "I was particularly conscious that in view of the difficult weather conditions for farming, which prevailed in the late spring and summer, that farmers' cash flows were adversely affected. Furthermore, the payment date of 1 December left a very short period before Christmas and the New Year in which to issue such a large volume of payments." Minister Coughlan confirmed that she will continue to press the EU Commission to provide for an earlier payment date for the full amount of the Single Payment in future years.

The Minister pointed out that, with the issuing of these balancing payments, the total value of payments issued by her Department under the 2006 Single Payment/Disadvantaged Areas Schemes, would be €1.35 billion. "I am particularly pleased that the time taken by farmers to accurately complete their applications is clearly evident in the level of payments made to date under these Schemes," the Minister said. "My intention has always been that payments issue at the earliest possible date and, in this regard, the minimisation of errors on applications is critical," she added. The Minister also confirmed that payments would continue to be made in the coming weeks as unclear applications continue to be processed by her Department. In other cases, farmers will receive supplementary payments as entitlements are transferred or the sugar beet compensation is incorporated in the Single Payment for those farmers where it is not already included.

Turning to the inspections under the Schemes, the Minister explained that, under the relevant EU rules, her Department is required to carry out certain levels of on-the spot inspections on farms, which are the subject of Single Payment Scheme/Disadvantaged Areas Scheme applications to ensure that applicants are adhering to the conditions of the Scheme. In 2006, of the 130,000 who applied for SPS (over 100,000 of these are also applicants for DAS), 8,200 farmers have had their holdings selected for on-the-spot inspection. This is a significant reduction in the level of inspections under the old Livestock Premia Schemes which exceeded 20,000 annually.

The Minister pointed that under the provisions of the exiting EU Regulations, it is necessary that a proportion of Single Farm Payment inspections be undertaken without prior notification. Some 650 farms out of 130,000 involved in the SPS were subsequently selected for unannounced inspection. The balance of inspection cases, representing 92% of the 8,200 farms selected for SPS/DAS inspection in 2006, are all pre-notified to the farmer.

Minister Coughlan said that she strongly believes that pre-notification of inspections fits in with the practicalities of Irish agriculture where increasingly, farmers are also engaged in off-farm employment. In a decoupled Single Payment Scheme system, the provision of advance notification of inspection to the farmer should not negatively impact on the effectiveness of the control. The Minister confirmed that she is seeking an amendment to the EU Regulations to allow for advance notification in all Single Payment Scheme inspection cases where the objectives of the inspection will not be jeopardised by advance notification. She has made her views on this known to Commissioner Fischer Boel and to her German counterpart, Minister Horst Seehofer, who has earmarked CAP simplification as a core issue for his presidency of the Agriculture Council from 1 January, 2007.

29 November 2006

Date Released: 29 November 2006