Thursday, 24 March 1994
Dáil Éireann Debate
11. Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry the number of farmers to whom letters have been sent requesting necessary information to allow payment to be made under the beef premium scheme.
Mr. J. Walsh: Detailed statistics are not maintained in respect of the number of farmers who have had to be written to under each individual scheme. It is my Department's experience, however, that incorrect and incomplete application forms, are leading to delays in payments  under a number of schemes. In the case of the June 1993 special beef premium scheme, for example, a recent analysis showed that up to 40,000 applicants, almost 50 per cent of all applicants — had to be written to by my Department concerning problems with their applications.
Mr. J. Walsh: Up to 20,000 reminder letters have issued and in some cases farmers have been written to as many as six times. The types of problems include failure to submit cattle identity cards, failure to supply date of birth and submission of incorrect or invalid tag numbers.
I appreciate that the schemes are highly complex. However, because of the amount of money involved — as much as £600 million when the CAP reforms are fully in place in 1995 — it is not unreasonable that the EU Commission lays down very specific conditions for the completion of forms and the meeting of other requirements. My objective is to keep administrative procedures as simple as possible within the constraints of the Commission regulations. My Department is continuously monitoring all aspects of the scheme with this in mind. Help sheets are available with all scheme application forms and in addition assistance is available to farmers by way of information seminars held throughout the country by the Department in conjunction with Teagasc and by way of the Teagasc CAP consultancy service.
I urge farmers to avail of that computerised service. It is available free of charge to farmers in the west of Ireland and small farmers and it is available at a cost of only £30 per annum to other farmers. Farmers can help in the speedier processing of applications by ensuring that all application forms are completed carefully and full.
Mr. Callely: The Minister indicated in reply to other questions about the scheme that approximately £500 million had been paid out in respect of grants in 1984. I note it is expected that 50 per cent of applications will be returned due to incomplete information that 20,000 reminder letters have been issued and some farmers have been issued with up to six letters in respect of their applications. Will the Minister indicate the cost of administering the service? Will there be a cut-off date for receipt of the completed application forms considering applications have been resubmitted five to six times?
Mr. J. Walsh: I do not have the information regarding additional administration costs of the scheme. Additional costs are involved in dealing with the applications which give rise to a great deal of frustration. Applicants and officials of the Department would like to see the matter simplified. I will be glad to deal with applications from any owners of quadrupeds in Deputy Callely's area of Dublin north.
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