JOHN Comer, Deputy President and Chairperson of ICMSA’s Farm Services Committee, has appealed to Minister Simon Coveney to ensure that the scheme payments backlog that is still affecting thousands of farmers throughout the country is finally tackled and cleared.
Mr Comer said his organisation was aware of many cases where already hard pressed farming families had incurred needless costs and interest penalties because the Government has repeatedly missed payment deadlines agreed in the Farmers Charter.
He said this led directly to situations where farmers were put at their wits end dealing with the constant pressure exerted by their banks and input suppliers regarding funding to meet their bills and direct debits.
Mr Comer remarked that farmers were perfectly aware of the precarious nature of the nation’s finances but the facts were that these payments were contractually due and the money concerned, in many cases, represented the bulk of their income.
“Delays of this duration were much more than an inconvenience, they were leading to serious financial hardship for the farm families concerned,” stated Mr Comer
He cited specific backlogs in four areas
The Single Farm Payment and Disadvantaged Area Payments delays in relation to the 2010 scheme; The REPS payments due to many farmers have still not been paid and given that farmers have spent the money complying with this scheme; The Dairy Efficiency Scheme payment was due to be made in February 2011 and still remains unpaid; The AEOS payment for 2010 was due to be paid at the end of 2010 and still has not been paid to farmers with over 9,000 individuals waiting for payment.
While accepting that the Department have procedures to follow, Mr Comer pointed out that farmers have bills to pay and they have received commitments from the Department under the Farmers Charter, as well as separately for some schemes, that payments will be made by certain dates. Farmers have planned their financial year and loan repayment schedules on this basis and the deadlines are not being met leading to all sorts of difficulties for the farmer.
Mr Comer called on Minister Coveney to re-commit his Department to adherence to the Farmers Charter and to ensuring both that all outstanding payments are made to farmers and that all future payments are made within the deadlines agreed between the Department and the Farm Organisations. If the Farmers Charter is to remain in any way relevant, it must be observed, concluded the ICMSA Deputy President.