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Minister seeks EU Commission's approval for advance payment of Single Farm Payment

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, Brendan Smith, TD, today announced that he has submitted a formal request to the EU Agriculture Commissioner seeking approval for an advance payment of the 2010 Single Farm Payment. "Mindful of the series of adverse weather conditions experienced by farmers over the last twelve months, particularly the widespread flooding and the very severe frost, coupled with the general financial crisis, I wrote to Commissioner Ciolos, requesting formal approval to allow an advance of the Single Payment be made with effect from 16 October - this is the earliest date an advance payment can be made, being the first day of the new EU financial year", the Minister said.

The Commission has indicated that it will examine requests from individual Member States for advance payments on their merits, in order to ensure that regulatory requirements are met, before submitting the requests to the Management Committee for formal consideration and approval of the payment of the advance. "Should the necessary approval be forthcoming, it is my intention that the maximum number payments will issue as early as possible, bearing in mind the need to ensure that the necessary re-digitising of maps submitted in support of applications is completed" the Minister said. Payments will continue to issue thereafter, as individual cases are confirmed eligible, he confirmed.

The Minister noted that the adverse weather conditions experienced in late 2009 and early 2010, with widespread flooding followed by severe widespread frost, had prompted him to introduce two emergency once-off support measures, the Damaged Fodder Aid Scheme and the Frost Aid Scheme, to support the affected farmers. In addition, the significant drop in farm income, across all sectors, has been compounded by the national and international credit crisis, the result for farmers being a severe restriction on the availability of access to working capital.

The Minister recalled the litany of weather conditions which had been experienced, noting that in 2009, rainfall was above normal everywhere for the third successive summer, with around twice the average rainfall in some areas and with several areas recording record rainfall. In addition, we had the wettest autumn in nine years, and the wettest November on record. This was followed by the coldest winter in almost fifty years. "The situation of farmers following this series of weather extremes was made all the more difficult due to their difficulty in obtaining credit, as a result of the ongoing financial crisis", the Minister said. He added that "A decision to allow an advance of the Single Payment would go some way towards alleviating the financial plight of farmers".

Concluding, the Minister pointed to the very clear success of his Department's campaign to have farmers identify ineligible areas on their farms, thereby enabling the vital work of ensuring that the official records match the reality on the ground. "I am very encouraged by farmers' positive response to the campaign" he said, noting that maps in respect of in excess of 100,000 parcels had been submitted to his Department. "While some farmers have suffered penalties in respect of ineligible areas, these represent a very small percentage of the numbers who apply under the scheme annually. An initial examination of the maps submitted confirms our long-held belief that, while a very significant number of maps required updating in order to accurately reflect the current position on the ground, the farmers in question had been making sufficient allowance in their Single Payment applications and, therefore, were not claiming ineligible area".

Date Released: 27 July 2010