Gildernew announces Heifer Compensation payments
Sinn Féin Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA today announced compensation payments to farmers of around £500k under the 2003 Suckler Cow Premium Scheme (SCPS).
The move follows a decision by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development not to appeal against a recent Civil Bill court judgment on the case involving the 5% heifer requirement.
The Civil Bill hearing found that the Department's Notes for Guidance in the 2003 Suckler Cow Premium Scheme were not sufficiently clear on the minimum 5% heifer condition and in particular the requirement to notify on replacements. Compensation will now be paid to farmers who did not notify replacement heifers in accordance with the 5% heifer minimum requirements.
The Minister said: "This was a complex case but having considered the matter carefully, including taking legal advice, I have decided that the appeal lodged following the court case on 29 August 2008, should not be continued with. I have also decided that 150 other cases to which this judgment reads across, should be reviewed and compensation, including interest, paid."
The Minister continued: "The Department will be writing shortly to each of the applicants concerned. The process will take a little time but I expect that all cases will have been reviewed and compensation paid within the next 12 weeks.
"When I came into office last year I gave a firm commitment, as a local Minister, to do my best for the farming community and I see this decision as reinforcing my commitment."
Note to Editors
- One of the conditions of the 2003 Suckler Cow Premium Scheme was that the number of heifers included in a claim must include a minimum of 5% and not exceed 40% of the total number of animals claimed. The scheme was introduced as a means of reducing beef production throughout Europe.
- The Civil Bill hearing found that the Department's Notes for Guidance were not sufficiently clear on the minimum 5% heifer condition and the requirement to notify on replacements. Although the Department had issued a letter in July 2003 to clarify the requirement, the judge decided that the Department had not done enough to fulfil its obligation to communicate clearly.
- The Department has made budget provision to pay compensation totalling up to £500k but the exact amount cannot be finalised until each case has been manually reviewed and reassessed.