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Minister Smith Reassures Farmers On The Continuing Flow Of Farm Payments and Strongly Rejects Criticism of Payment Schedule

~ Over €671 million paid in SPS and DAS payments in recent weeks ~

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today rejected recent criticism of his Department in relation to the schedule of direct farm payments to over 110,000 farmers.  The Minister described the criticism and some of the recent commentary as "ill-informed and inaccurate. Farmers can be assured that their SPS and DAS payments are continuing to flow to them and will continue between now and year-end".

Minister Smith confirmed that, after the first week of processing payments, over €500 million has been paid to in excess of 110,000 farmers in advance SPS payments, which means that approximately 90 per cent of all applicants have received an advance payment.  The Minister described this as a "significant achievement".

Minister Smith also recalled that the advance SPS payments were being made at this time, six weeks earlier than is otherwise provided for "only because of the very strong case I made to the European Commission to approve an advance payment following two difficult years endured by the farming community. This payment of over €500 million at this time will significantly improve the cashflow position and provide a very welcome boost to Irish farm families, particularly at this time of the year".

Responding to recent criticisms of the rate at which payments are being made, the Minister said "the facts are that Ireland is one of the first Member States to release Single Payment funding and the record of my Department in processing applications and making advance payments is equal to the best record of any Member State".

The Minister explained that advance SPS payments are being made to those farmers whose applications are fully processed and clear or whose applications are processed and where the only problem is non-digitised maps.  Cleared payments are being made an on ongoing basis and will continue weekly.  Payment of the 50 per cent Advance Payment of the SPS will continue until 1 December when the issuing of balancing payments will commence. The Minister confirmed that payments are also continuing under the Disadvantaged Areas Scheme. Full payment is being made to those farmers, who did not receive any Advance Payment, as their applications were in error. The balancing payments continue to be made to those applicants, whose maps have be re-digitised and their applications are fully processed and clear.

Minister Smith said that since the revised and ambitious payments schedule had commenced on 22 September, "payments worth in excess of €671 million have already issued to the farmers concerned. I am confident that, by year-end, the total value of payments which will have issued to farmers under these schemes will be on target".

While acknowledging that some farmers will not receive their full advance payment as payment cannot be made on land parcel that require re-digitising or amendment, the Minister confirmed that he had implemented a provision whereby farmers not in receipt of their full advance payment can receive a supplementary advance payment following the re-digitising of their land parcels. In the past, such farmers would have to wait until 1 December before they could be paid their additional payment as well as their balancing payment. "This is an important new development and in line with my primary focus of issuing payments to farmers as soon as they became eligible for payment" he said.

Putting the digitising exercise into context, the Minister explained "It is essential that my Department's Land Parcel Identification System, which records details of all land declared under all the area-based schemes, is fully accurate, given the fact that LPIS underpins total expenditure under these schemes of in excess of €1.8 billion annually. The system must take account of changes to areas submitted by farmers.  Any failings or shortcomings in LPIS would leave my Department open to the very real risk of significant EU fines. Such a risk cannot be countenanced and I will not compromise the value of direct payments to Irish farmers".

 

Date Released: 27 October 2010