30 JANUARY 2017
ICSA held a demonstration outside Department of Agriculture offices today (Monday) at Johnstown Castle, Co Wexford on behalf of some 10,000 farmers who still have not received their GLAS payments and also for farmers who are waiting on AEOS payments.
The demonstration led by ICSA president Patrick Kent and rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock was “the only option available in the face of unacceptable delays and a complete lack of communication to farmers who still have no idea when they will get their money.”
Patrick Kent said that, “ICSA patience with the Department has run out and it simply is not good enough to leave so many farmers high and dry over IT issues or minor technicalities with plans.”
Following the protest ICSA president Patrick Kent, rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock and general secretary Eddie Punch met with senior department officials and outlined the frustration of farmers over the lengthy delay in payments. It was acknowledged by the department that the delays are imposing hardship to those who have yet to receive payment and that they will do their utmost to clear the backlog as soon as possible. It was also confirmed to ICSA that a further 1,200 farmers will be paid today.
ICSA rural development chairman, Seamus Sherlock said that the delays were causing severe pressure for many farmers who have undertaken environmental measures which cost money or reduce productivity. “Farmers entered the scheme in good faith, hired planners to submit plans and incurred costs. They entered the scheme in the expectation that they would be paid in December and many are under pressure with bills. Some farmers are behind with bank repayments as a result and many more are experiencing cash flow difficulties.”
“If the dole, the pension or the public sector wages were a day late, there would be uproar but farmers are treated as second class citizens. ICSA estimates that the outstanding money at this point comes to some €46 million which is money badly needed in rural Ireland. ICSA is demanding that all remaining farmers are paid immediately.”
“This fiasco should never have been allowed to get so out of hand given that it is now almost two years since the scheme was first opened and given that the original objective was a scheme for 50,000 farmers. 26,000 farmers applied in the first tranche which closed in May 2015. We now have some 37,500 in the scheme with over 10,000 still waiting. So it is unacceptable that at this point we are still dealing with a complete mess in terms of the IT system and handling payments. Farmers are really furious, especially when the Department imposed very tight deadlines on them and their planners in the first place.”
It is also clear that we need a fundamental review of the tendency by the Department to make schemes more and more complex when it is clear that there is insufficient urgency and planning around making sure that systems and resources are in place to handle the applications.