MEP Sean Kelly has sought retroactive action by the European Commission to compensate farmers who have incurred fines as a result of incorrect completion of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) forms. This call for compensation comes following news that the CAP application process is to be simplified.
Irish farmers will soon be able complete the CAP application process without fear of unintentionally incurring harsh penalties due to administrative mistakes, according to Mr Kelly who has welcomed the 'badly needed' simplification measures.
"These measures are important insofar as they take a load off the minds of farmers who, up to now, could have been said to have been playing with fire when completing CAP application forms. Now, following years of calls for it in the European Parliament, we will see a more simplified system introduced, and farmers will not live in fear of the penalties they may be subjected to for over-declaration."
In addition to a preliminary check of aid applications which was adopted in November 2015, a simplified system of penalties - which can currently add up to more than twice the value of the over-declaration - will be introduced. On top of this, a 'yellow card' system for first offenders will be brought in to further reduce the penalty for simple mistakes.
"Penalties imposed will now be reduced to 1.5 times the value of the over-declaration which is a much fairer and less off-putting threat. Additionally and crucially, the new yellow card system, which I have called for time and again in Brussels, will finally become a reality. Now for a first offender, if the over-declaration is small, the penalty imposed will be reduced by 50 per cent, which is a significant improvement on before," said Mr Kelly.
"With a preliminary check combined with the yellow card system, farmers can submit their applications without the massive fear that one simple mistake will severely hit them in the pocket."
Mr Kelly stressed the point that some farmers had already been hit with fines due to overly strict administrative requirements: "A large number of farmers have already lost out on income and so, it would be a welcome step if retroactive action could be taken to compensate farmers for these losses.
"I ask the Commission to explore this possibility and ensure a fair outcome for those who have suffered due to administrative complexity," he concluded.