The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) wrongly expelled a farmer from the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS) last year.
This was one of 163 complaints the Office of the Ombudsman received about the DAFM last year.
According to the Ombudsman’s Annual Report 2020, the farmer was later allowed to re-enter the scheme, which he joined in 2017 after he filed a complaint with Ombudsman Peter Tyndall.
GLAS was rolled out in three phases in 2015 and 2016 and involves a five-year contract.
One of the criteria for receiving payments under the scheme relates to the requirement to spread slurry.
In the first year of the scheme, the farmer spread slurry, but he did not submit the relevant annual return. The DAFM sent him several reminders. However, he did not respond and, therefore, expelled him from the scheme.
Adam complained that he had receipts to show that he had undertaken the required work in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He claimed his only error was not submitting his annual return on time.
Confused two penalties
The Ombudsman considered the various penalties under GLAS and found that the DAFM had confused two penalties in this farmer’s case.
It had incorrectly imposed a penalty on the farm for failing to stick to the scheme’s rules.
According to the report, instead, it should have issued him with a late submission penalty. This applies where a farmer, who is over 25 days late in submitting his/her annual return, is not paid for that action.
The Ombudsman said that the DAFM should not have removed the farmer from the scheme.
Payment of €10,500
While the Ombudsman was examining his complaint, the farmer sent his annual returns for 2017- 2020 to the department. The Ombudsman asked the department to reconsider its decision, and Adam was allowed back into GLAS.
“This means that Adam can receive GLAS payments in the future, providing he meets the relevant criteria. The department also agreed to pay [the farmer] for most of the work he completed between 2017 and 2019. This amounted to approximately €10,500.”
“While Adam had spread slurry in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Department penalised him for being late in submitting his returns for those years and deducted €240 from his payment.”