Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly has revealed that farmers in Co Kerry were forced to pay out over €600,000 in penalties under the Single Farm Payment scheme in 2013.
In reply to questions from Fianna Fáil, the Department of Agriculture has said admitted that more than €5 million was taken in penalties from farm payments last year. Farmers in Co Kerry were charged one of the highest amounts in penalties, €633,106.
Senator Daly said the hefty fines are causing real hardship to farmers across Co Kerry.
“These fines are extremely harsh and totally unnecessary in most cases. Many of the penalties imposed are for innocent errors made because the process is overly complicated and bureaucratic,” said Senator Daly.
“I know many smaller farmers across Co Kerry who are already struggling with cuts to supports and increasing operating costs. On top of all of this, they are being hit with hefty fines for errors mainly caused by the unreasonable level of red tape they must go through to receive their Single Farm Payment.
“It’s disgraceful that farmers in Kerry are being hit with one of the highest level of penalties. It’s further evidence of the Minister’s failure to stand up for the smaller farmers in particular, who are crippled by cuts to supports and unnecessary bills.
“Farmers are becoming increasingly distressed about the high level of bureaucracy, penalties and inspections for extremely trivial issues. Many are choosing not to apply for supports because of the enormous amount of paperwork and procedures involved. Others are fearful of being hit with a penalty because of a minor mistake.
“This penalty system is a blunt instrument that makes no consideration of innocent errors and why they occurred. I am appealing to Minister Coveney to immediately review the scale of these penalties with a view to cancelling them or reducing them dramatically. I am also calling on the Minister to ensure that where innocent errors were made that were not the fault of the farmers themselves, the money taken from them would be repaid in full.”