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Minister Coveney sets up Independent LPIS Appeals Committee

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, T.D., today confirmed that he has established a dedicated, independently-chaired committee, to consider appeals from farmers wishing to have land eligibility issues reviewed.

Under the Direct Aid Schemes, farmers are obliged to declare only eligible land when making their applications, are to exclude ineligible features, such as roads, buildings, dense scrub, etc. These claims are then recorded on my Department’s Land Parcel Identification System (LPIS)’ the Minister explained. Given the importance of the LPIS database in underpinning direct aid payments worth in excess of €1.5 billion annually, the Department is obliged under EU Regulations to ensure its accuracy, which is done on an ongoing basis via ground inspections, remotely via satellite imagery, review of ortho-photography and by the corrections and adjustments made by individual farmers.

Following consultation with the EU Commission, as part of the normal Accounting process, my Department was requested to undertake a complete review of the LPIS database, which is currently underway’ the Minister explained, noting that it has proven necessary to adjust land parcels of a significant number of applicants, where is was established that some ineligible features had been included. In certain circumstances these adjustments are giving rise to penalties.

While the Minister has provided for farmers to have the normal course of appeal within his Department in the first instance, mindful of the impact on some individuals, he has now decided to establish a dedicated Appeals Committee, to allow for further, independent, review. ‘It is appropriate that provision be made for an independent appeals process, in order that those, whose appeals are initially not successful, may be afforded the opportunity to appeal my Department’s decision’ the Minister said, adding, ‘I am very pleased to say that Mr Padraig Gibbons, Chairman of Aurivo (formerly known as Connacht Gold), has agreed to chair the new Appeals Committee, which will also comprise of Appeals Officers from the Agriculture Appeals Office in Portlaoise’.

The Minister noted that Mr Gibbons, a farmer himself, has experience of all aspects of the agricultural sector and specifically has experience of dealing with large volumes of farmers’ appeals, having successfully chaired the similarly structured DAS Appeals Committee. Mr Gibbons runs a dairy farm in Westport, is a prominent figure in Irish agriculture, being a former President of the Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (ICOS), the coordinating body for the cooperative movement and is currently a member of the ICOS Board. He is also a member of the Boards of Teagasc and the National Dairy Council.

Minister Coveney concluded by saying that this new Appeals Committee would deal with appeals from farmers in an independent, fair, comprehensive and efficient manner.

Date Released: 16 October 2013