In 2016 the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine sought recoupment of approximately €7,600 from an organic farmer due to overpayment under the Organic Farming Scheme.
The farmer had joined the Organic Farming Scheme in June 2011. The scheme was due to run for part of the year in 2011 and five full calendar years thereafter. The issue arose after additional land was incorporated into the contract area in December 2013 and higher payments issued accordingly.
The appeal concerned the land added to the contract in December 2013, within year two of the contract and using the correct scheme form.
The farmer sought a review by the Department of its decision and it overturned the decision to seek clawback of €7,600, but deemed the land added in December 2013 was ineligible for payment.
The Department stated the decision arose as the Organic Farming Scheme was not open in 2014 and no new land should therefore have been accepted into the scheme.
The appeals officer had quoted paragraph 11 of the Organic Farming Scheme terms and conditions, under the heading 'changes in contract area farmed' , it states:
To qualify for payment on the additional land if in year one or two of the original commitment, the participant may submit an Application Amendment Form (OFS 1 AM) and receive payment on the additional land for the remaining period of the existing commitment.
The appeals officer found that even though the scheme was not opened to new applications in 2014, the farmer complied with the requirements of the terms and conditions for adding more land to the contract area in year two and found this did not create a new application.
The appeals officer allowed the appeal.
The case is highlighted in the annual report of the Agriculture Appeals Office for 2017 released this week.