Stage 2 appeal outcomes
The committee heard an appeal against the imposition of penalties following the failure to comply with SMR 6 resulting in discrepancies in cattle passports held for animals declared dead yet with no date of death or movement. The committee rejected the appeal on the basis that the breach of SMR 6 had occurred. The Minister upheld the Committee’s recommendations.
The committee heard an appeal against the refusal of a Works Approval application to plough fields which had previously been in the Agri-Environment Scheme to create species-rich dry grass land. The committee were informed that there were no Schedule 7 plant species listed in the (Biodiversity Officer’s) report on those fields. The committee upheld the appeal with the following recommendations:
- The main area of the field can be ploughed and cropped in accordance with the low input farm system currently used on the land, oats are to be sown and harvested as a crop of arable silage and the stubble is to be over wintered to supply an additional food source for birds.
- Headland strips of 3 metres from the base of the hedge land side and a minimum of 5 metres seaside containing the current plant species must be left to provide species diversity, bird nesting and feeding habitat.
- The committee would support ADS penalties should the above recommendations be ignored.
- Farmers should be reminded of the Island wide Ecological Habitat Survey undertaken by the Department, which was then the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and they should contact the Department if they are in doubt of any such areas on their holdings.
- The £300 fee for the Stage 2 appeal should be refunded.
The Minister agreed with these recommendations.
The Committee heard an appeal against the imposition of a 10% penalty for a late application. Following the clarification of 'Exceptional Circumstance' as defined in the Farmers' Handbook the appeal was upheld and the penalty removed.
A Stage 2 Appeal Committee in 2011 had recommended:
'The department consider amending the scheme to include a "force majeure" clause with wider scope than the existing provision.'
This was investigated at the time but as 'force majeure' is a legally defined term it was not possible and it was decided at the time that the process which allowed late applications, provided the department was informed prior to the deadline, was sufficient. Following a review of this recommendation however, and in the spirit of the recommendation, the definition of 'Exceptional Circumstance' has now been clarified. Exceptional Circumstance (Farmers' Handbook ch.2, p.7), in relation to CCS applications, now means:
Where extraordinary circumstances prevent an applicant from submitting their application form on time, the Department should be advised of the situation in advance of the deadline date (11 May) so that a solution can be agreed. Deferments will only be considered in exceptional circumstances beyond the control of the applicant. An example of this might include a long stay in hospital. Where such advance notice has not been possible a late application may be accepted ONLY if the delay was a direct result of a debilitating recognised medical condition placing additional pressure on family members and is supported by a doctor's note or certificate and it is reasonable to accept the claimant was not able to communicate with the department either directly or indirectly.
N.B. This will be more widely communicated in May 2015 with a general update to the Farmers' Handbook.
A further recommendation was:
- The department set fixed timescales for the hearing of a Stage 2 Appeal. Suggested timescales are within 3 months of the Stage 2 Appeal form being received, for relatively straightforward cases and within 6 months for more complex cases.
- The new Agricultural Development Scheme, to be debated in Tynwald in March 2015, has a paragraph to address this timescale and stipulates a 90 day limit from a Stage 2 appeal being received and the Committee's report being submitted to the Minister.
The committee heard an appeal against the imposition of penalties following the failure to comply with SMR 6 resulting in discrepancies in cattle passports held for animals declared dead yet with no date of death or movement. The committee rejected the appeal on the basis that the breach of SMR 6 had occurred but suggested some recommended changes to the procedure for returning passports to benefit all parties.
A department member with delegated powers from the Minister overturned the Committee decision and upheld the appeal on the basis of a perceived flaw in the current process where the Department of Infrastructure ('DoI') should notify the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture ('DEFA') on the collection of animals to allow a cross-check of the database. However, the following additional recommendations were made:
- That the appellant be inspected within 12 months to ensure full compliance and should further breaches occur that the penalty be applied and the possibility of prosecution be considered.
- Department of Infrastructure's Animal Waste Processing Plant (DOI AWPP) be notified of their obligations under the law.
- DEFA undertakes a review of the scheme and legislation to ensure that it is workable for the commercial operatives (farmers and DOI AWPP) whilst being compliant with the department's statutory obligations to ensure full traceability of stock.
The Committee heard an appeal against the imposition of penalties following the destruction of semi-natural habitat. The Committee recommended that the penalty be reduced. The Department has decided that the land be allowed to regenerate naturally without the use of fertiliser or any seeding. The Committee also recommended that farmers should be reminded of the Island-wide ‘Ecological Habitat Survey’ undertaken by DEFA and they should contact the department if they are in doubt of any such areas on their holding. An update will be provided with the April CCS payment statement. The Minister upheld the recommendations.
The Committee heard an appeal against the imposition of penalties following the removal of a hedge during the non-cutting period. The Committee recommended that that the penalties be reduced but that reinstatement conditions remain in place. The Minister upheld the recommendations.
The Committee heard an appeal against an unsuccessful application to the National Reserve. The Committee recommended that the application to the National Reserve be rejected on the grounds that insufficient evidence had been presented to demonstrate that the application met the criteria of the scheme. The Minister upheld the recommendations.
The Committee heard an appeal against the imposition of penalties following the use of a chemical pesticide on a crop for which it was not approved. The Committee recommended that the penalty be reduced. The Minister upheld the recommendations.
The Committee heard an appeal against the imposition of land eligibility penalties following a cross compliance inspection in connection with the CCS Scheme 2009 (Amendment 2010).
The Committee recommended that the appeal be upheld and the land classification of 1 field be reassessed. The Minister upheld the recommendations.
The field has subsequently been reclassified as AML and due to the height of gorse is ineligible for payment. Payment calculations have been finalised following rebasing. The application of land eligibility penalties have been confirmed as consistent between Years 1 and 2. The consolidated scheme is available to download. Following a review, future editions of the Handbook will be available to download from the web to ensure that the latest information is available.
The Committee heard an appeal, which gave rise to financial implications following an error made by a claimant on the application form.
The Committee recommended that the wording on the Error Correction form, what it can be used for, what will be changed by its submission and the dates during which it will be accepted, be reviewed and addressed for the 2012 scheme year.
The Committee also recommended that the Farmers' Handbook be amended to ensure clarity. It was noted that the onus remains on claimants to submit the correct information to the department. The Committee found in favour of the appellant, and the Minister upheld the recommendations which have been duly actioned.
The Committee heard an appeal against the imposition of penalties following the removal of gorse and hedging during the non-cutting period.
The Committee recommended that that the penalties be reduced but that reinstatement conditions remain in place. The Minister upheld the recommendations.
The Committee heard an appeal against the imposition of 100% penalty due to the late submission of an application form.
The Appeals Committee found that the terms and guidelines had been applied consistently and correctly as the department was not notified in advance of the serious illness that led to the late submission. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
Due to the exceptional circumstances the Committee recommended that monies be found to pay the appellant, though they acknowledged the money could not come from the CCS.
The Minister upheld the recommendations. It was noted that no precedents have been set. The department duly considered amending the Scheme to include a force majeure clause with wider scope than existing and has found the current provision to be satisfactory.
The Committee heard an appeal from a National Reserve applicant in relation to the acreage payment they had been awarded. The Minister upheld the Committee's recommendation that the rules of the scheme had been applied in the way intended by the Farmers' Handbook and in a manner consistent with the other 2010 applications. The acreage rate therefore remained at the level of the initial award.
The Committee heard an appeal against the inclusion of some land in the 2008 base acreage, corrected for eligible land in 2009, and used for the calculation of Historic Entitlements. The subsequent loss of land meant that all entitlements could not be claimed.
The Committee referred to the information contained in the Farmers' Handbook and recommended that the department had correctly interpreted the Scheme in relation to this case. They expressed sympathy with the particular and unusual circumstances which befell the applicant and led to this situation. The Minister upheld the recommendation.
The Committee heard an appeal against the classification of some parcels of land as being Above the Mountain Line.
The Committee recommended that 2 fields be re-classified as Below the Mountain Line but that 8 other fields remained as Above the Mountain Line. The Minister upheld the recommendations which have been duly actioned.