Agricultural appeals system not fit for purpose - Matt Carthy TD and Chris MacManus MEP
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture Matt Carthy TD and Chris MacManus MEP are calling for a comprehensive reform of the agricultural appeals system, which they have described as not fit for purpose.
Data requested by Teachta Carthy has exposed that the current process is not delivering an efficient outcome for farmers.
In 2021, the average time from receipt of a complaint to closure was 185 days. This is double the Department’s three-month closure target.
Teachta Carthy said:
“It is important to recognise that 185 days is only an average and we have reports that farmers with certain issues, especially around land eligibility, are waiting years for an oral hearing and resolution.
“Part of the reason for the delay is the Department of Agriculture (DAFM)’s failure to provide the documents requested by the Appeals Office in a timely manner.
“In 2020, it took the Office of Agricultural Appeals 65 days to receive documents requested from DAFM in relation to the ANC scheme, 33 days for the basic payment scheme and 92 days for the organics scheme. These delays severely interfere with the work of the Appeals Office.
“It must be recognised that we are talking about disputes over often large sums of money, that could mean the difference between a small farmer hanging on in the sector or not; dragging the process out for six months is unacceptable and could be having a severe impact on people's mental health.”
Chris MacManus added that the systems failure undermines the CAP’s implementation.
The Midlands-NorthWest MEP said:
“A key part of the CAP is managing the relationship between farmers and the national authorities, farmers are doing their job by producing high quality food and being the custodians of our landscapes, and it is the Department’s job to manage the programme and swiftly resolve any issues.
“I have written to the Commission to explain the situation and ask whether Ireland has failed to properly implement a functioning CAP. The result of having an inefficient process is farmers losing faith in the system and foregoing any disputed funds.
“Sinn Féin is calling for immediate reform. This should include:
- an increase to the current 13 case officers
- a one-month deadline for the DAFM to provide the appeals office with all of the requested information
- a commitment to an oral hearings within 60 days of the initial complaint
- strict enforcement of the 90-day closure target
- an acceptance that if DAFM fails to provide the relevant information before the oral hearing then the appeal would be decided in favour of the farmer
“Sinn Féin believes such a reform would show our farming community that DAFM is committed to working with them rather than against them.”