Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, outlines why and how he believes the Minister for Agriculture must ensure full basic payments for penalised farmers.
A response from the European Commission regarding farmers whose holdings natural disasters have hit confirms that the DAFM may not have to implement penalties.
Farmers such as those with land surrounding Lough Funshinagh in Roscommon and surrounding Killarney National Park fear that they may be penalised on their Basic Payments due to flood and fire for which they bear no responsibility.
Minister Charlie McConalogue previously stated that there was very little he could do.
Farmers, including those from Roscommon and Kerry, are fearful that their Basic Payments will be penalised through no fault of their own due to wildfire or flooding.
This proposition always appeared to be ludicrous. I have always advocated that the Minister for Agriculture should use the full breadth of his discretion to avoid fining farming families who have already borne the brunt of natural disaster entirely outside of their control.
I have engaged with the DAFM and the European Commission directly on this matter to seek a resolution.
This is not about compensation or emergency provision; it’s about not imposing a fine.
These fines exist for legitimate reasons, such as to prevent burning out of season and protect the environment.
They are not intended to kick a person in the teeth while already suffering from a natural disaster.
As such, I was not surprised to learn that the European Commission, in response to my colleague Chris MacManus MEP, has confirmed that provision exists for situations that arise from force majeure.
Interestingly, the department has referenced force majeure in the department’s own help-sheet/terms and conditions for 2021.
However, this is only in relation to application deadlines and the functioning of inspections but not concerning eligibility criteria itself.
Minister McConalogue urgently needs to make a statement to clarify if he will accept these circumstances as force majeure.
Finally, he must ensure the DAFM pays farmers their Basic Payment in full, or if not, his justification for such.