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Gildernew announces Heifer Compensation payments

10 November, 2008


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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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