Beef Plan believes that payments the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine issues to farmers must be non-refundable.
In its recent CAP submission, the organisation highlighted its concerns relating to the clawbacks farm scheme participants face if they fail to meet requirements.
Payments to farmers
Eamon Corley told That’s Farming that a BPM delegation flagged the issue during its recent meeting with Minister McConalogue.
The group views the matter as “an area of great concern that has emerged in recent years”.
“In some situations, this happens as many as five years after the farmer has received the funding.”
“Because of the lack of money in farming, a growing number of farmers are running their farms on a depleted bank account.”
The group said that the DAFM’s request to return money in this environment only serves to put “unnecessary mental pressure on already hard-pressed farmers”.
“In some situations, these unexpected demands for cash will effectively be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and will be responsible for putting the farmer out of business or worse.”
The group pointed out that recent studies show farmers’ is among the most fragile of any occupation.
“For the department to repeatedly serve threatening demands for money on these self-employed workers in the agriculture sector knowing the pressure they are under, is wrong and unforgivable.”
Pay as you go
Beef Plan has requested that schemes should be designed and administered in such a way that the Department of Agriculture have mechanisms in place to check that actions are complete or can be completed to the department’s satisfaction before it issues funding.
The group believe the DAFM should design and administer schemes, as far as possible, on a pay as you go basis or failing that only recouped on a pro-rata basis.
“In other words, where a farmer has completed say 50% of the actions for a particular scheme, he should be entitled to keep 50% of the money.”
“This practice of the department looking for entire scheme payments to be returned after 5 years where the farmer complied on 80% of the tasks is grossly unfair.”
The BPM said there are “many” situations where farmers enter schemes in good faith.
Circumstances, the spokesperson added, arise outside the control of farmers that result in them not meeting deadlines for certain actions.
- Part two of this article on issues with the BEAM and BDGP schemes.