Systematic Elder Abuse

Documents recently released to me by the Agriculture Office of the European Commission prove that the Irish Department of Agriculture were aware since August 2007 that they had illegally misapplied the law in relation to Single Farm Payments to the detriment of elderly farmers as I have outlined in the posts below.

The European Union Court of Auditors found that the Single Farm Payment entitlements of 150,000 hectares of the total 702,000 hectares in the country were unlawfully reassigned away from elderly small farmers.

The annual value of these misappropriated entitlements is estimated to be €220,000,000 and relates to an area of land 8kms wide from Galway to Dublin. The average size of the holdings from which entitlements were misappropriated was 12.84 hectares (approximately 30 acres).

Page 11 of the European Court of Auditors report of the 22nd of December 2006 is a damning indictment of the wrongdoing of the Irish Department of Agriculture. The European Court of Auditors report of the 2nd of August 2007 confirmed their findings and concluded with:

The Court’s services maintain their audit finding that in the cases referred to in the previous paragraph the Irish authorities systematically calculated the SPS payment incorrectly.

Single Farm Payment Corruption

My name is Paddy Fitzgerald, a retired Tipperary farmer. I joined the Early Farm Retirement Scheme on 5/12/1994 for a payment period of 10 years up to 4/12/2004. The contract stated that I could dispose of my farm “with the relevant farm buildings and quota rights associated with the agricultural holding whether by sale, transfer or lease to a farming transferee”. (the contract did not surrender the ownership of any assets)

The Minister for Agriculture breached that contract in more ways than one but for now I am concentrating on the Single Farm Payment as one issue now.
Regulation 1782 / 2003 was the legal basis for agricultural payment schemes including SFP under CAP. This document provided all the information about this scheme but Irish farmers were never made aware of it.

There was no record of Council Regulation 1782/2003 in Minister Joe Walsh’s Explanatory Guide 2004, The Committee of Public Accounts Debate 2009, Minister Coveney’s Single Farm Payment Guide 2011 and Minister Coveney’s Direct Payments Guide 2015. It is not mentioned in any correspondence from Minister Michael Creed or Commissioner Hogan. It was not mentioned in news reports either so there is no way people affected could know how they were wronged except by being told by the Minister for Agriculture which he obviously didn’t do.

I believe there are over 6000 people affected by the illegal mismanagement of the Single Farm Payment Entitlements by successive governments since 2005. There is no provision in Council Regulation 1782/2003 Article 33 to allow for Stacking (Consolidation) except in the case of a Compulsory Purchase Order; in all other cases it is strictly forbidden.

Below is a chronological account of the history of the SFP in Ireland under the Minister and Department of Agriculture.

2003
Council Regulation (EC) No 1782/2003 of 29 September 2003 established common rules for direct support schemes under the common agricultural policy and established certain support schemes for farmers.
Council Regulation (EC) 1782/2003 Article 33 “farmers managing the holdings shall have access, pro rata, to the single payment scheme under the same conditions as the farmer managing the original holding”.
See Full Document here.
https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/2b580390-78c4-4ffd-b8e7-009d2b53be58/language-en

2004
The Minister for Agriculture Mr. Joe Walsh TD published a booklet titled :-
The Single Payment Scheme. An Explanatory Guide dated May 2004 was published at:
https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/farmingsectors/crops/single_pay_sch.pdf

The document is  now available here.  As proof of the authenticity of the “Explanatory Guide” he quoted “The final outcome agreed in the Commission of Ministers in Luxembourg on 26 June 2003”. (THAT CLAIM IS INCORRECT)

Irish Constitution Article 29 guarantees that EEC laws can not be interfered with. Regulation 1782/2003 is the EU law on the Single Payment and it states “this regulation is binding in its entirety and is directly applicable in all Member States”.

2008
See Official Journal Paragraph 95 underneath dated 22 April 2008 in relation to the practice of stacking / consolidation of entitlements in UK, Ireland and Austria which did not comply with community legislation when allocating entitlements and paying single payment scheme. (SPS)
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=OJ%3AJOL_2009_088_R_0023_01
Paragraph 95 of the above noted document was known to the Minister in early 2008.

2009
Committee of Public Accounts Debate 12/2/2009
https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/committee_of_public_accounts/2009-02-12/6/
When discussing the report from the European Court of Auditors concern expressed by the Irish Comptroller and Auditor General Mr. John Buckley in relation to the stacking of Single payment entitlements:- “I thought it was important to draw attention to the matter because it is a contingency that needs to be managed since it could have a material and accumulating financial effect”.
The amount stated in that report was approximately 45 million euro.
(I believe that 45 million euro was taken from lessors and given to lessees illegally.)
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/ireland-faces-fines-for-breaching-sfp-payment-rules-26514576.html
(Independent .ie IRELAND FACES FINES FOR BREACHING SFP RULES)
This is the best independent description of the Public Accounts Debate and easier to follow than the debate itself.

2011
The Irish Farmers Journal and the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney produced a booklet Single Farm Payment 2011. The complete guide to safeguarding your 2011 Single Farm Payment was available until recently on the Department of Agriculture website at:
https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/farmingschemesandpayments/singlepaymentsscheme/singlepaymentscheme/IFJDAFFSPSGuide.pdf
I believe that it has been removed in order to cover up corruption and money laundering as set out in the first paragraph of page 13. It is now available at:
IFJDAFFSPSGuide.pdf
Minister Coveney “I am pleased to see the launch of this comprehensive booklet for farmers, designed to assist and explain all aspects surrounding the 2011 Single Farm Payment”.

Page 13 deals with Consolidation (Stacking) of Entitlements.
I believe that this booklet advises on how to “money launder” entitlements not legally acquired and surplus to the number of hectares available.
You simply send in to the Minister all the entitlements you have lawfully been given, plus the stacked / consolidated entitlements that were received from leased farm land, and in return you get a lesser number of entitlements but of equal value to the entitlements that you originally sent to the Minister. The idea is that what you get is now regarded as being “perfectly legal”, because for a lesser acreage you are now given a bigger slice of the Single Farm Payment.

2014
Irish Farming Examiner dated April 3 2014
https://www.irishexaminer.com/farming/news/entitlements-dilemma-for-6417-264079.html

Irish Farming Examiner dated April 10 2014
https://www.irishexaminer.com/farming/news/forced-transfer-of-sfps-is-a-taxing-problem-264863.html
Forced transfer of SFPs is a taxing problem
First paragraph “CAP reform is on course to deliver a tax windfall of tens of millions of euro to the Government”
Note the only place that the money concerned came was from the stacking of single payment entitlements taken by farm lessees contrary to Regulation 1782/2003
(Those entitlements were illegally removed from lessors by stacking and were to be sold rather than returning them to the farms from which they were originally taken. The people being forced to sell or gift those entitlements which had a value per annum of e45 million according the European Court of Auditors took them without payment from people who leased them land.)
Irish Examiner article “Warning over entitlements lawsuits May 16 2014
https://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/warning-over-entitlements-lawsuits-268866.html

National Reserve entitlements opening for 6,417 Irish Examiner 13th November 2014.
https://www.irishexaminer.com/farming/stephencadogan/national-reserve-entitlements-opening-for-6417-297528.html

2015
Minister for Agriculture Booklet Cap 2015 An Introduction to Direct Payments was published at:
https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/publications/2014/CAP2015AnIntroductiontoDirectPayments260314.pdf

The document is now available here.

Conclusion.
On Page 3 Minister Coveney’s Foreword Paragraph 6 “It is no longer possible to justify the significant differences in the level of support per hectare granted to farmers based on the use of historical references”. (In other words Stacking)
I believe that the reason for the differences in the level of support per hectare was because Minister Joe Walsh in his May 2004 Single Payment Scheme Explanatory Guide permitted the illegal Stacking of Entitlements. That stacking of Entitlements was continued and approved of by Ministers Mary Coughlan, Brendan Smith and Simon Coveney up 15 May 2014 when the EU insisted that the consolidation practice be stopped prior to this date.

EU Anti-corruption law
Convention drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 (2) (c) of the Treaty on European Union on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union
https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=OJ:C:1997:195:FULL&from=EN

State of the Union address by Jean Claude Juncker 2018. Note second part of Page 11.
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/sites/beta-political/files/soteu2018-speech_en_0.pdf

I believe that the easiest way for victims to deal with it is to use the EU “Convention drawn up on the basis of Article K.3 (2) (c) of the treaty of the European Union on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union”.
What I have done so far is to download a copy of that Convention and take it to the local Garda Station together with evidence that I have had Entitlements removed from my land by lessees in contravention of Regulation 1782/2003 Article 33 and ask to have it investigated as a corruption issue.
I have also sought assistance from my local TD and MEP and took my complaint to the EU Office in Dublin as well.
I expect it could not be swept under the carpet if more affected people did the same thing.

Paddy Fitzgerald.

Questions for the Minister for Agriculture
(1) Did the Single Farm Payment Scheme as applied by the Minister for Agriculture comply with EU Council Regulation 1782/2003 Article 33 as regards the stacking of the Single Farm Payment Entitlements and particularly Article 156 which states “This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States”?

(2) Did the removal of the Single Payment financially affect the land owners from whose farms that those Entitlements were removed and stacked?

(3) Did the Government take away from those land owners a right conferred on them by Europe?

(4) Did the stacking of those Entitlement expose the Government to a financial liability of 45 million Euro per annum?

(5) As the Minister for Agriculture is aware of the injustice done to those old and vulnerable land owners, does he have any contingency plans to pay restitution?

(6) What became of all the stacked Entitlements that were not sold by 15 May 2014 by farmers who got them for free?

(7) Did those surplus Entitlements which had a substantial value go into the National Reserve instead of restoring them to the farms from which they had illegally been taken?

Minister Michael Creed’s statement to the Dáil 6th February 2019:

“I have heard that criticism of the reference years, but looking at agriculture and entitlements today relative to 20 years ago, they bear little or no resemblance. Bearing in mind that, under the CAP, more than €100 million will have moved from farmers with high per hectare entitlements to farmers below the average level of entitlements, it is my view, which is contained within the document as published, that that journey of convergence will continue. It will be external, in that other member states will be looking for a greater share of the cake, and internal, in that, whatever the size of cake we get, there will be greater convergence. I have heard some people mention upward-only convergence, which baffles me to an extent as something of an oxymoron. There will be a continuation of the journey of convergence, however, which represents a greater equalisation and sharing out the spoils of the Common Agricultural Policy between all farmers.”

https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2019-02-06/3

Convergence definition: “the act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity.”

The reason for the difference in “per hectare” entitlements resulted from entitlements being unlawfully assigned to tenant farmers for land which was not owned by them. This resulted in “naked acres” or farms with a per hectare entitlement value of nil. Naked acres obviously have a lower sale/lease value to the landowner.

Question to Commissioner Phil Hogan regarding Single Farm Payment

The following question was posed to Commissioner Phil Hogan at an IFA meeting at Goffs Co. Kildare on the 24th of April 2017:

My name is Paddy Fitzgerald, from Co. Tipperary. I am 79 years old now.

I signed an Early Farm Retirement Pension Scheme Contract with the EU in 1995.

To be admitted to the ERS I was obliged to undertake to cease all commercial farming activity definitively in return for a 10 year Pension.

The Single Payment qualifying years were 2000,2001 and 2002.

Only people who were actively farming as farm owners or lessees were entitled to the Single Payment.

I could not be farming in those years as I had a prior ERS contract with the EU.

Prior to the advent of Milk Quotas there was another EU Scheme a Milk Cessation Scheme Contract where some milk producers were paid not to produce milk for a period of 4 years.

When Milk Qoutas were introduced the EU decided to deny those milk producers the right to produce any Milk after the 4 year period even though the then contract only lasted for 4 yrars.

The European Court of Justice ruled that those Milk Producers were entitled to Milk Production Rights equal to the quantity produced before they entered into the Milk Cessation Scheme

Those Mulder farmers were allowed Milk Quota equal to the last year that they produced milk and were compensated for loss of income for the years when they were not allowed to produce milk.

The difference between those Mulder farmers and the ERS farmers was that the Mulder farmers were compensated because they had a prior contract with the EU .

The ERS farmers who also had a prior contract with the EU not to go back farming definitively were not compensated.

The EU are now recouping the pensions paid to those ERS farmers left without the Single Payment
and naked acres since the area Aids were removed from their farms and put into the Single Payment.

The Farm Organizations engineered those ERS contracts with the Department of Agriculture but they
didn’t see to it that they were honoured. WILL THEY SUPPORT US NOW.

Some of those pensioners are dying every day. Their numbers are now thin on the ground and the ones
left do not have the time left to them or the resources to go to the European Court to get the same kind of ruling that the Mulder farmers got.

This issue was raised with Commissioner Hogan by Matt Carthy Sinn Fein MEP months ago.

How does Commissioner respond to that issue in the short term. Will we now get the Single Payment back dated equal to the Area Aids that were taken from our farms?