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O’Neill provides flexibility assurance to LFACA claimants

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is to consider applications for Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances from those farmers making a claim to Less Favoured Area Compensatory Allowances (LFACA), who have lost stock due to the recent severe weather.
Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Minister O’Neill said: "Every year around 14,000 farmers apply for payment from the LFACA scheme, of which over 98% are ultimately deemed eligible and qualify for payment. I recognise the important contribution which the scheme makes to the industry and to those farming in more disadvantaged areas in particular."

Minister O’Neill sought to reassure those farmers who feel that they may lose out on payment due to low stocking levels as a result of the severe weather conditions that DARD would consider each case on its merits, the Minister continued: “I have asked officials in my Department to consider positively any requests for Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances on the grounds of stock losses caused by the severe weather conditions."

Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances is defined as 'unusual circumstances outside the control of the trader, the consequences of which, in spite of the exercise of all due care, could not have been avoided except at the cost of excessive sacrifice'.

The Minister continued: "EU Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstance provisions are not new. However, to satisfy their requirements, the farmer must ask the Department in writing for their case to be considered under these provisions. Usually requests for Force Majeure should be made within 10 working days of the farmer being in a position to do so. However, given the severity of the weather, the extent of the loss in some instances, and the proximity to the closing date for the Single Application Form, the Department will accept requests up to but not beyond 15 May 2013. Also, in order to help the farmer provide the Department with the information needed to decide Force Majeure, an application form has been developed specifically for this purpose. This application form will be available from Wednesday 17 April 2013 from local DARD Direct Offices on request or from the Department’s website. Completed forms can be posted or sent via e-mail to Orchard House.”

The Minister concluded: "I accept that it will not be possible for many farmers who have lost livestock due to the severe weather to restock until later in the year given the extent of the loss in some cases and the unavailability of replacement livestock. However, farmers affected in this way must make every effort to meet the minimum stocking density threshold as quickly as possible. This will help us ensure that farmers receive all the payments that they are entitled to and do not lose money unnecessarily."

Notes to editors:

  1. The (LFACA) scheme includes an area based payment for eligible hectares of Severely Disadvantaged Land (SDA) and Disadvantaged Land (DA)/Common Land and one of its key requirements is the maintenance of a 0.2 stocking density throughout the seven month qualifying period of 1 April to 31 October.
  2. Payments worth £25million are made annually.
  3. The EU Regulations allow for DARD to consider cases of Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances. In the Commission Guidance on the use of force majeure/exceptional circumstances, this concept is defined as 'unusual circumstances outside the control of the trader, the consequences of which, in spite of the exercise of all due care, could not have been avoided except at the cost of excessive sacrifice'.
  4. The guidance also highlights that there are two elements to be considered. The first is an objective element and this requires DARD to determine if there was an unusual circumstance outside the control of the applicant. The second, the subjective element, requires DARD to consider whether the consequences of the exceptional circumstances could not have been avoided in spite of the exercise of due care.
  5. Therefore, applicants have to prove that, despite taking all reasonable measures to counteract their effects, the Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances prevented them from meeting their obligations.They must be able to provide information (supported by documentary evidence if possible) of the steps taken to prevent or lessen the effect of the circumstances.
  6. Consideration of Force Majeure/Exceptional Circumstances must normally be requested in writing and within 10 working days of the date on which the farmer is in a position to do so. However, given the severity of the weather, the extent of the loss in some instances, and the proximity to closing date for the Single Application Form, the Department will accept notifications up to but not beyond 15 May 2013. Each request will be considered on individual merit.
  7. This form will be available from Wednesday next (17 April) for farmers to:

    · Collect from and return to their local DARD Direct Office to forward to Orchard House; or
    · Download from the DARD internet site and return to their local DARD Direct Office to forward to Orchard House; or
    · Complete on line and forward to Orchard House electronically.
  8. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email: DARD Press Office. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.