Farmers who had their land washed away in storms over recent months will have their maps readjusted and said lands will not qualify for the single farm payment.

That is according to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney who was speaking in the Dail yesterday. “Farmers cannot apply for payment in respect of land that no longer exists because it has been washed away,” he said.

“We will need to discuss this matter with farmers because, from a legal perspective, we cannot draw down EU money in respect of agricultural land which is no longer there.

“If farmers are being paid and if one of the qualifying criteria is that land must be fenced off, there will be a need for them to put back in place any fencing, which has been damaged or blown away in the coming weeks,” he added.

The minister stressed: “We will show understanding and a degree of flexibility while this is being done, particularly in view of the extent of the damage done by storms. There is no carte blanche here, however, and we cannot ignore all the rules.”

“From a legal perspective, I could not ignore the rules even if I wanted to do so. As stated, we will show a degree of flexibility and understanding in the context of the damage done as a result of recent storms. However, people who may have lost some land as a result of its being washed away by the sea or a river cannot claim payment in respect of it.”

The minister visited affected areas in Galway and Clare last Friday. He said it was a useful visit and noted a good deal of damage has been done.

He stated: “In the case of farmers and inspections, we have been very clear with our inspectors that they must be flexible and take account of the extreme weather that we have had in recent months in the course of their inspections and assessments, which they must make legally in the coming weeks.”

According to Minister Coveney: “In the case of land eligibility, if a farmer has had boulders come on to his land from the beach as a result of high tides and stormy conditions, then, obviously, that must be taken into account in a way that is understanding of the extreme weather.”

He minister also highlighted other areas of consideration including fodder and animal welfare. “If any farmer has an animal welfare concern, he should call our animal welfare hotline and he will get help from us.”

He also commented on the topical issue of slurry storage, which is becoming an increasing issue an many farms as the weather remains wet and windy.

“Many farmers have full slurry storage tanks at the moment but have wet land as well and that is an issue. They should be talking to their Teagasc advisors about how they can and should manage that properly.”