Northern Ireland remaps to avoid EU fines

Northern Ireland is to spend £4.8m on correcting the maps used to claim single farm payments in order to avoid EU fines.

Farming minister Michelle Gildernew has announced that a project to review the Department of Agriculture and Rural Devlopment’s (DARD) Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS) is now under way.

It follows the imposition of £31m disallowance fine from the EU because of discrepancies in the 2004-2006 scheme years.

Outlining the planned work the minister said: “I believe we must now focus firmly on ensuring that we improve our situation as quickly as possible.

“This is why I have set up this review of the farm mapping system. Some 60 technical staff have been redeployed to carry out this review.”

The minister said the process would systematically review and, where necessary, correct each of the 742,000 fields currently used to claim SFP and other area aids schemes.

The DARD expects to begin producing revised maps for farmers by early 2011.

Ms Gildernew said: “I want to make it very clear that the issue of disallowance is not just a government responsibility.

“Farmers must make a greater effort to check their farm maps more closely and inform DARD of any changes or inaccuracies in these. This mapping project can only deliver if map revisions are taken seriously by farmers when they are completing their SFP applications.”

Ulster Farmers Union John Thompson welcomed the announcement.

“There were two major issues involved in the EU’s decision to impose very significant disallowances on DARD,” he said. “The first was the accuracy of farm maps and we are pleased that this project has been brought forward and will address the criticism that was directed at DARD on this issue”.

“The second was the issue of land eligibility for single farm payment and we certainly have concerns around the changing interpretation of what type of land is eligible since the SFP scheme was introduced in 2005. If this is not properly addressed it could have a very significant adverse impact on SFP claims at farm level”.

“We have already been involved in discussions with DARD on this matter and given the importance of this issue going forward, we will continue to monitor developments very closely”.