Fianna Fáil Cork South West Senator Denis O’Donovan says the Minster for Agriculture Simon Coveney has abandoned farmers in West Cork in relation to savage cuts in the Single Farm Payment.

Senator O’Donovan said changes to the Single Farm Payment means that in some instances farmers are being forced to pay back huge sums of money because of new mapping technology which calculates how much land is eligible for the payment.

“Smaller, rural farmers in West Cork have been particularly hit by the changes to the Single Farm Payment. Digital mapping of farmland has resulted in farmers losing up to €8,000 in historical Single Farm Payments, penalties dating back to 2009 may be applied, which could bankrupt struggling farmers.

“In many instances farmers never received prior notice regarding these penalties. The farmers who are suffering have out cropping rock, natural bushes and furze growing; sometimes these encroach on farming land and they are being penalised for this.

“Farmers have been devastated by the response from the Minister; they are being offered no protection and they feel they are taking a disproportionate hit.

“A lot of smaller farmers had to borrow money last year to deal with the extreme weather conditions we had in the Spring. On top of repaying these loans, some are now being hit with these stealth fines that were handed down without any notice.

“I am calling on Minister Coveney to work with EU Officials to find some common ground. These infringements are minor in many cases and a warning system should have been put in place to offer some protection for farmers.”