The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) has called for a 10-day window to rectify any administration errors following the completion of derogation applications.

Noel Feeney, outgoing president of the association, made this request in his address to Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue last Thursday during ACA’s AGM in Birr, Co Offaly. This call was also echoed from the floor with advisers urging both Department of Agriculture officials and the minister to provide more leeway in this regard.

Advisers explained how minor administration breaches, such as forgetting to upload a document, results in rejection of the derogation application, exclusion from the derogation for two years and significant cumulative penalties across all support payments.

“From an advisory perspective, simple errors, in preparing derogation applications on behalf of our farmer clients can result in those clients being excluded from derogation for two years exposing our businesses and causing unwarranted stress for both our members and those farmer clients.

“Where administration errors are found in a derogation application, an error that has no fundamental effect on the farmer’s eligibility for that derogation, ACA requests that the applicant and/or their adviser on their behalf, is permitted to rectify such admin issues within 10 working days,” Feeney said.

Minister McConalogue said on Thursday that the Department reviewed its procedures in light of the two-year rejection for what could, in cases, be minor administrative errors which will have no impact on water quality.

New procedure

“Under the Department’s new procedure, 2023 derogation applicants who failed to lodge all necessary supporting documents are now given a two-week opportunity to lodge the required documents.

“To date, 112 herdowners who failed to submit valid support documentation with their 2023 derogation application have been written to and given two weeks to submit the required documentation. This procedure should significantly reduce the number of farmers rejected from derogation for purely administrative issues.”

An adviser in the room requested that the minister ensures advisers are included on all emails sent to farmers looking for any additional information.