The number of appeals filed with the Office of Agriculture Appeals (AAO) rose 42 percent over two years to 809 in 2021, according to new data provided by Agriculture Minister Charlie McConaughey.
They are compared to 760 n 2020 and 570 in 2019.
AAO is an independent office which provides service to the farmers who are dissatisfied with the decisions related to the designated schemes of the Agriculture Department.
It also provides administrative support to the Forestry Appellate Committee (FAC).
The Minister said that the number of forestry appeals received in 2020 also increased from 489 in 2019 to 874 in 2020, which had a significant impact on resources.
He added that the increase in appeals “and the multiple challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a reduction in the number of agricultural appeals and an increase in appeal closure times in 2020”.
Minister McConaughey said the average waiting time in agricultural appeals in 2021 was 124 days – or about four months; And 308 appeals received in 2021 are still awaiting a decision.
He said he has been assured that the AAO is “currently working on reducing the number of open appeals and the time period from assignment to decision and has made significant progress in 2022”.
Minister McConaughey said the AAO is covid-19 friendly and has increased appeals by giving the option of deciding the matter without a remote hearing or an oral hearing.
“However, several appellants requested that the appeal be delayed till the oral hearing is held,” he said.
They significantly reduced the number of forestry appeals submitted to the FAC in 2021; This, combined with the easing of COVID restrictions in June 2021, reduced delays in closing appeals in 2021.
The Minister said that due to circumstances beyond the control of the Agriculture Appellate Office, the appeals may not be completed within the stipulated time limit of three months.