Farmers angry over ‘spy in the sky’ – Connaughton

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Several hundred County Galway farmers who have received letters from the Department of Agriculture concerning so called overclaims on their Area Aid applications are incensed that they may be retrospectively billed for past years.

Deputy Paul Connaughton said this week that a number of very annoyed farmers contacted him stating that they applied on the area of land that appeared on maps supplied by the Department themselves and in some cases on the area of land as measured by the Department’s own Inspectors following on from farm inspections.

As one farmer put it, ‘I had an area aid inspection about 5 or 6 years ago and when I received the new altered maps I believed I had my duty done forever.  Now I find that the new aerial photograph has me penalised by another 0.5 of a hectare for the smallest of deductions ranging from  .01 to .20 of a hectare, spread out over the farm here there and everywhere, including the lawn in front of my house.’ This farmer said he is under the 3% penalty clause (or 2 hectares) but is now dreading another letter in the post in a few weeks’ time demanding payment back on whatever the so called recovery of the Single Farm Payment may be.

Deputy Connaughton said that all the farmers who spoke to him said they only wished to claim on eligible land and if there were some adjustments to be made following the aerial surveillance they would accept this.  ‘But I believe there should be no retrospection whatsoever for the years past, given that it was the Department’s own maps which were used,’ said Deputy Connaughton.

‘I will endeavour to raise this matter in the Dáil this week with the Minister for Agriculture to demand that he renegotiates with the EU to stop this most unfair treatment of farmers. The detail included in these aerial photographs makes the ‘Spy in the sky’ the most accurate and formidable account of what is going on in Mother Earth and when you see small lawns in front of dwellinghouses, a lone tree in the middle of a big field and every pond and stream all included in the new map it begs the question if the Land Registry maps accepted and acknowledged for generations as being the legal instruments to satisfy ownership of lands may now be soon challenged in a Court of Law,” mused Deputy Connaughton.