Fianna Fáil Senator Marc Mac Sharry has called on the Minister for Agriculture to issue a detailed statement to clarify serious confusion over the Disadvantaged Area Scheme payments.
Senator Mac Sharry said: “There is a very serious issue that has arisen over the payments under Disadvantaged Area Scheme this year. Changes announced to the eligibility criteria in the budget meant that the minimum stocking rate farmers need to have in 2011 to avail 2012 payments was 0.3 of a livestock unit per hectare for three consecutive months. Previously it was 0.15 of a livestock unit per hectare.
“The failure of the government to properly communicate this information to farmers has led to confusion over the scheme this year and incorrect applications being submitted by farmers because of a lack of clarity. There is no need for a repeat of the fiasco surrounding the Household Charge.
“Many people have been contacting my office in recent weeks to express their frustration at the lack of information they have been given and even conflicting information from the agencies and representative groups for the sector. This is something that must be addressed as a matter of urgency and I would urge the Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to engage a public information campaign so that farmers know their entitlements and how to apply for them.
“It is simply not acceptable for the Government to make a significant change to the Disadvantaged Area Scheme payments and not properly communicate this to ensure that all farmers are aware of the change and what they need to do to ensure they receive their payment if they are eligible. There are also new terms and conditions that applicants need to meet in order to draw down their payment in 2012 and this has not been properly highlighted to farmers either.
“I am urging the Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to immediately address this issue and clear up the confusion and worry that has been caused.”