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New regime will reduce impact of penalties on smaller farmers

Jan 20, 2016 | ICSA in the Media | 0 comments

Farming Independent

PUBLISHED 20/01/2016

A new ‘yellow card’ system for first-time offenders has been introduced as part of a wide-ranging revamp of the penalty system applied to EU payments.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said work was continuing to cut the “administrative burden” for both farmers and government departments.

“With the new CAP, farmers feel themselves faced with new and complex rules and consequently they worry that unintentional mistakes might lead to the application of penalties and thus the loss of part of their income support,” said Mr Hogan.

He added that the measures were designed to make it more “proportionate” and to reduce the impact on smaller farmers.

After measures were introduced late last year to reduce the on-the-spot checks, Mr Hogan told a European Parliament Agriculture Committee meeting in Strasbourg that a ‘yellow card’ system was being introduced.

In the case of a farmer making a mistake for the first time and where the over-declaration is minor – below 10pc of the area declared – the administrative penalty will be halved.

“Farmers having received a yellow card will be registered and where appropriate will be subject to an on-the-spot control inspection the following year,” he said.

A system of ‘preliminary checks’ has also been introduced so that those governing the payments in individual countries can identify problems early with farmers’ applications.

Up to 35 days after submission, farmers will be allowed to make corrections to their aid applications without the addition of any penalties.

“They will have a direct effect on farmers, sending a clear message that our interest is not to catch farmers out as it were, but to ensure that public money is well spent,” he said.

Simple penalty

Mr Hogan said the Commission was working to simplify the system of administrative penalties for direct payments.

“I have replaced the different categories by a simple penalty, which is 1.5 times the area overdeclared. This reduced level of penalties will apply from 2016,” he said.

“Small over-declarations that are up to 3pc of the area declared or 2ha will continue not to be penalised.”

The ICMSA’s deputy president Pat McCormack said the preliminary checks of applications is positive and should be fully embraced by our department as this could also address many of the payment delays.

He said the ‘yellow card’ system was an improvement but land eligibility issues must be addressed.

ICSA president Patrick Kent said they welcomed all efforts to row back on the current “savage regime” of penalties.

Meanwhile, Mr Hogan said agreement had been reached on export competition at the recent World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting.

This would result in the “elimination of all forms of export subsidies and disciplines on other potentially trade-distorting export measures.”

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