Farmers increasingly sceptical of Government's approach to land eligibility - Carthy
Speaking from Brussels this morning, Sinn Féin MEP for the Midlands North West and member of the European Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Matt Carthy has echoed the calls of his Oireachtas colleague Martin Ferris for the Government to establish an independent working group to address the issues surrounding land eligibility.
“I recently met with senior representatives of the ICSA to discuss a number of issues affecting the farming community in my constituency.
“One of the issues which arose, as it does frequently in any meeting of farmers or their representatives, is the issue of land eligibility.
“Some 30,000 farmers across the country have received letters from the Department outlining reductions in their farming area and it is estimated that just over one third of those who have received the letters have chosen to appeal, highlighting the high level of scepticism among the farming community regarding the process.
“There is growing speculation among the farming community that the Department is deliberately targeting marginal farmers in order to offset a fine from the European Commission to the tune of €180million. This is unfair.
“Meanwhile, appeals that are being processed from 2013 are still being held up and are affecting the farmers entitlement to a variety of payments upon which their income depends.
“This issue is impacting particularly on farmers with marginal and disadvantaged land who rely heavily on payments to maintain an adequate level of income.
“Farmers from across my constituency and beyond have consistently highlighted to me the problems with both the ground and aerial inspections and this is a matter that I have raised in the European Parliament at Committee level directly with Phil Hogan.
“I am currently working on a submission to the Commissioner outlining the practical difficulties faced by farmers subject to the inspection process, which I hope will be positively received and provide the means to simplify the requirements at European level.
In the meantime, it appears that there is a growing sense of inease among the farming community in relation to the Government's handling of this issue and I feel that the suggestion of an independent working group to establish a clear set of guidelines would go some way in addressing this issue to everyone's satisfaction."