BY BRIAN MOORE
WEST CORK’s farmers are ready to take on the Department of Agriculture in a High Court action against the implementation of Single Farm Penalties.
At a packed meeting in Dunmanway, members of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) and the West Cork Community Alliance (WCCA) heard that over €100,000 of a war chest has been raised from members across the country.
ICSA Chairman Dermot Kelleher told the meeting that it was vital that the farming community came together to ensure the Department of Agriculture remove the single farm payment penalty system.
‘We have to do something. This is a horrendous situation that is facing farmers right across the country. These penalties are unjust and are being imposed without notice on many farmers who have not done anything wrong,’ Mr Kelleher said.
The penalties to the single farm payment are levied by the Department of Agriculture and are imposed when land is deemed outside the area eligible for the Single Farm Payment scheme.
However, Dermot Kelleher said that not only were some farmers facing penalties on their single farm payment, many were also having these penalties applied retrospectively.
‘We have families facing into penalty payments of many thousands of euro. This can’t be allowed to go on. Farmers are being penalised just because they are farming marginal land. The state is facing over €180m in fines, not because of what farmers have done, but because of what the State has failed to do and now it is forcing small farmers in West Cork and across the country to pay the price,’ Mr Kelleher continued.
WCCA chairman Con McCarthy said that these penalties were responsible for much hardship, not only across West Cork, but nationwide.
‘Rural Ireland is being destroyed by this government. Families are living in fear due to the uncertainty surrounding the future for their businesses and their children that these penalties are causing. That, coupled with the increase in removal of services, post offices and garda barracks, communities are afraid and facing very uncertain years ahead,’ he added.