‘When is my money my money?’

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East Galway TD Paul Connaughton this week said that he is being approached by many farmers who are asking him when they can be sure that money they receive from the Department of Agriculture is not going to be recouped.
‘One farmer approached me last week with the question “When is my money my money?” and it is getting increasingly difficult to give a proper response to this. In recent weeks I have heard of a number of farmers who have received letters from the Department of Agriculture stating that the Department is seeking to recoup their 2014 Single Farm Payment and possibly their Disadvantaged Area Scheme payment following site inspections.
‘These farmers applied for their payments, received them and have that money long spent on their day-to-day farm operations. If a Department official made a decision last year that was later found to be incorrect and overturned on appeal, would the Department recoup a month’s wages?
‘Farmers have a reasonable expectation that money received in years gone by belongs to them. The current situation is set to get even worse with the new suckler cow scheme, which states that if problems are found, the farmer risks losing all the money received. I have previously encountered this problem with AEOS, where farmers had money received over a number of years recouped because they did not fulfil the five year contract.
‘Such recoupments are making farmers very wary of joining any scheme. Which of us knows what will happen in the next five years? I believe that we should have a short window of opportunity where clawbacks can be made and after that period a famer can be assured that the money is indeed theirs. This is something that I will be taking up with Minister Coveney in coming weeks.’