Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Matt Carthy TD, has said that a response from the European Commission regarding farmers whose holdings have been hit by natural disaster, confirms that the Department of Agriculture 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 as a result of flood and fire for which they bear no responsibility.
Minister Charlie McConalogue previously stated that there was very little he could do.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Farmers, including those from Roscommon and Kerry, are fearful that their Basic Payments will be penalised through no fault of their own as a result of 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 both the Department of Agriculture 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 aren’t intended to kick a person in the teeth while they’re already suffering due to 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, force majeure is referenced in the Departments own Help-sheet/Terms and Conditions for 2021, but only in relation to application deadlines and the functioning of inspections but not with regard to eligibility criteria itself.
“Minister McConalogue urgently needs to make a statement to clarify if he will accept these circumstances as force majeure, and ensure that these farmers are paid their Basic Payment in full, or if not, his justification for such.”