Thousands of Donegal farmers are receiving “horrendous” treatment by the Department of Agriculture due to the withholding of important payments promised on two occasions in recent months, it has been claimed.
It is estimated up to 2,000 local farmers are awaiting an average payment of €4,400 for participation in the Green, Low Carbon, Agri-environment Scheme, known as GLAS, that has up to 12,000 participants nationally.
The payment had been promised twice, but the latest deadline of December 19th was not met and payments are still outstanding, a meeting has heard.
Donegal IFA Hill Committee representative, Brian Duffy (pictured) from the Rosses branch, told a meeting of the local Donegal executive in the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny on Tuesday night it was “horrendous” how their members were being treated.
He said this was the second time the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine failed to meet the payment deadline as they were also promised payment back in October 2016.Mr Duffy stated: “There needs to be more political pressure. There is no interaction with the ten or twelve thousand people who haven’t been paid. They (the department) won’t even correspond with them to tell them why they haven’t been paid. They can’t get in touch with them. There is a whole mess there that needs to be addressed. We have to put more pressure on the minister. It is horrendous how they are treating the people who signed up to this in good faith.”
Chairman of Donegal IFA, Michael Chance, said they raised the matter with the agriculture minister when he attended the national AGM of the IFA in Dublin last week.
Guest speaker at Tuesday night’s meeting, regional IFA chairman Bert Stewart, said the delay in payments was a ”huge issue” as there have been two payment deadlines.
“It is a huge issue for people. They were promised GLAS payments in October and they didn’t come. We were then told it was due on the 19th of December,” he stated.
GLAS is an agri-environment scheme under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 that sets out to reward farmers for farming in an environmentally friendly manner, through annual payments.
A statement from the Department of Agriculture to the Donegal Democrat stated that to date 27,400 of the 37,500 participants in the scheme had received 85% of their payment totalling almost €100 million. The department, however, is unable to give a timeframe for outstanding payments.
The statement read: “The Minister is keen to provide clarity to farmers awaiting payment at this stage. Furthermore, in order to ensure outstanding payments are issued without delay, all resources from an I.T. and administrative perspective are being directed towards resolving the outstanding issues.
“It is not possible to provide a definitive timeframe for the completion of payments due to the individual nature of the outstanding issues, however, every effort is being made to process all payments as quickly as possible. The Minister understands and regrets the difficulty this uncertainty will cause for farmers involved and is being updated on a continuous basis by his officials on progress.”