Of the 448 farmers active in GLAS 2 in County Cavan, 84 have had issues with their application flagged by the Department; the figure is substantially smaller in County Monaghan, with 152 applicants, and 27 where a query has arose.
The figures were provided by Agriculture Minister Michael Creed in response to parliamentary questions posed by local Fianna Fáil's Deputy Niamh Smyth. The Bailieborough based TD had asked the Minister when he expects all persons in counties Cavan and Monaghan to be “paid in full” under GLAS 2. The Minister didn't directly provide a date in response, instead he noted that each of these first payments equated to 85% of the farmers' entitlements in 2016.
He added: “My Department is continuing to review unpaid cases and as they pass all of the regulatory checks and validations they will be processed for payment.”
'Giving up hope'
The issue was raised by a frustrated farmer speaking from the floor at Monday's AGM of Cavan IFA in the Lavey Inn.
"It's probably about 21 months to the day that I made an application to join the GLAS.
Has there been any more progress on the payments because it is just unacceptable that this has dragged on.
We're told we would get GLAS payments around Christmas time, or before that - here we are now in the middle of February and we're not getting any information from anybody of what's holding this up - is there an issue? We're told that we need t odo all these things electronically now, and make applications through planners and all that, and now in fact people are saying they are processing this thing manually... People at this stage are almost giving up hope."
IFA president Joe Healy said that since 28,000 farmers were paid nationwide in mid-December, the payments have trickled through at a much slower rate in the weeks that followed.
He said that the IFA had raised the issue in Brussels seeking permission to pay out to the remaining farmers before processing but were told, EU's court of auditors will not permit payments before issues are resolved.
In her PQ, Deputy Smyth further asked whether the Minister would “commission extra staff” to deal with backlog of GLAS 2 payments regionally.
Minister Michael Creed also resisted stating directly whether he would commission extra staff to bolster his current team of 26 assigned to the GLAS scheme.
However he indicated that the delay from the department's perspective lay in farmers' having not satisfactorily resolved queries which have arisen in their applications.
Outstanding payments under GLAS 2 are largely due to unresolved queries associated with individual applications.
All GLAS applications must pass regulatory controls and validations as is the case with all EU co-funded schemes. “Department officials are working through all outstanding cases, including those in counties Cavan and Monaghan, on an individual basis with the intention of processing payments which meet all required regulatory requirements as soon as possible.”
Minister Creed also emphasised that “every effort is being made in order to ensure that outstanding payments are issued without delay”.