Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has called on the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to fast track payments that have been delayed under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
The latest figures from the department show that almost 5,000 farmers eligible for the scheme have yet to receive their advance payment for 2018 – despite the first run of payments taking place on October 16, 2018, Deputy Fitzmaurice added.
Commenting on the matter, the Roscommon-Galway TD said: “I will be calling on the minister to get more deeply involved with his department to make sure that grants held up at this time of year are released as soon as possible.
“We saw last February and March how the department sent out literature to all farmers telling them that they wouldn’t accept paper applications to the BPS this year and that applications had to be submitted online as a result of EU regulations.
“Farmers were told that this move towards online applications would enable the department to process submissions as efficiently as possible and that payments would run smoothly and rapidly.”
It was hoped that the transition to 100% online applications would give the department a two month head start on processing submissions, due to the fact that no paper applications had to be sorted through, Deputy Fitzmaurice added.
Continuing, he said: “But as is the same with every other year, we now see situations where people: who are under pressure to repay loans in banks; who are under pressure with vulture funds knocking at their doors; who are under pressure to pay contractors and merchants; and who sometimes are even under pressure just to survive are being fed the line that payments have been delayed due to a remote inspection having been carried out.
“If the department was given a head start on processing applications this year due to farmers making submissions online, then surely these inspections could have been carried out some time ago?
“With Christmas fast approaching, a lot of families are under pressure; I would ask the minister to make sure that delayed payments are now fast tracked.
“As farmers have obliged the department in submitting their applications online this year to meet EU regulations, they need to be able to see improvements regarding how payments are rolled out – and I don’t those improvements are apparent at the moment,” he concluded.