The Agricultural Appeals Office is considering a case involving a former BDGP participant who exited the scheme due to ill-health.
The farmer’s ill-health “forced” them to sell their sucklers, and now, the DAFM expects them to “return a sum of their BDGP payment”.
Deputy Jackie Cahill raised the matter during a Dáil debate on agriculture schemes on Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021.
He said the farmer in question “was no longer in a position to care for them [sucklers]”.
During the exchange, he asked the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, why the case is not covered under force majeure.
In response, the minister said the farmers joined the programme in 2017.
In doing so, they “gave an undertaking to adhere to the terms and conditions that govern the programme”.
“They committed to carrying out the necessary actions for the full six years of the programme.”
McConalogue confirmed the DAFM received correspondence from one of the persons named in March 2020. The farmer stated that he was no longer able to continue in the programme.
“He included medical evidence stating that he would not be fit for work for at least three months,” the minister said.
McConalogue said the DAFM required the persons named to confirm, in writing, if it was their intention to continue suckler farming.
McConalogue added the DAFM informed them that they if still wished to withdraw from BDGP that they would have to reimburse the DAFM for BDGP payments received since 2017.
Furthermore, he said in April 2020, the DAFM reminded them that in applying to join the BDGP scheme, they committed to participating in the programme for the scheme’s full six years.
“As indicated in the programme’s terms and conditions, any withdrawal would result in payments made under the programme up to that point being recouped.”
McConalogue confirmed the DAFM received correspondence from one of the individuals named in May 2020.
“He stated that he was unable to continue to participate in the programme due to serious health issues.”
In October 2020, the DAFM informed the farmers that following a review of their request, “force majeure could not be considered in this case as the application under BDGP II was in joint names”.
In May 2021, the DAFM informed them that they were no longer deemed to be participating in the BDGP.
The minister said the DAFM informed them that as they “did not adhere” to the programme’s T’s and C’s, they “must now recoup the monies paid to date under the scheme as provided for in the terms and conditions”.
“They sought a review of the department’s decision,” he told the Dáil.
Following consideration of the request for a review and the information supplied the review was unsuccessful, he said.
The minister confirmed the programme’s terms and conditions allow for the consideration of force majeure in “certain circumstances”. He said these include the long-term professional incapacity of the beneficiary.
“This has not been applied in this instance. A check on the department’s AIM showed that the herd number still had animals on their holding.”
“Furthermore, the herd number, when applying for the scheme, had two names associated with it and now has three names.”
Concluding, he said the case is now before the Agriculture Appeals Office for consideration.