UFU tries to set fraud record straight
By FWi staff
NORTHERN Ireland farmers leaders have issued an open letter to local media and press complaining about coverage of alleged fraud in foot-and-mouth claims.
The Ulster Farmers Union says allegations that sheep numbers culled for virus precautions do not match EU premium claim numbers tarnish the whole industry.
Many producers have contacted the UFU to outline disappointment and anger at being unfairly portrayed as untrustworthy, writes UFU president Douglas Rowe.
In an effort to set the record straight, he writes that out of all EU claims made last year by local farmers, only 0.03% resulted in convictions for fraudulent activity.
And he points out that in relation to the details published by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, no one as yet has been found guilty of anything.
“If fraud is proven then it should be dealt with, but the individuals involved must be allowed to explain their individual circumstances,” wrote Mr Rowe.
Discrepancies came to light after foot-and-mouth outbreaks resulted in the compulsory slaughter of over 200 flocks in three separate areas of the province.
DARD has cross-checked the number of animals culled and the subsidy claims lodged.
In South Armagh, of 93 farmers who had claimed annual premium, over half had fewer sheep than needed to meet claims and 16 had no sheep at all.
Of the 10,281 ewes claimed on, 3187 or 31% had gone missing.
The situation was a little better in Cushendall, Co Antrim, where there was just an 8% shortfall in the number of sheep on farm.
But 48 farmers out of 106 who had claimed premium were short of sheep, including one who had no stock at all.
DARD is writing to all the farmers concerned to invite them to comment. Penalties will apply to those who cannot provide an explanation.
For example, someone who claimed on 40 sheep, but only had 36 during the retention period would only get 78% of the full premium on the 36 sheep.
Anyone with more than a 20% discrepancy would lose the entire premium. Some may also face prosecution if there is evidence of fraud.
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