26th January 2014
ICSA beef vice-chairman Tom Egan has said that he is very concerned at reports that the number of cases where penalties were imposed on farmers following inspections in North Tipperary is significantly higher than in other parts of the country.
“It’s just not realistic to suggest that farmers in this area are so much less likely to meet the required standards than farmers in other counties,” he said. “There are a lot of questions to be asked on this subject. Are the correct protocols being followed by inspectors? Are particular farmers being targeted? How many inspections are being carried out compared to other areas of the country? Farmers in North Tipperary would like answers to these questions.”
“We all know inspections are important to maintain standards, and we know that they are part-and-parcel of many of the payment schemes available, but they should not be used as a means of persecuting farmers who are doing their best in difficult circumstances.”
Mr. Egan pointed out that farmers have virtually no rights when it comes to inspections. “The Farmers’ Charter supposedly provides for certain protocols such as 48 hours’ notice for inspections, but it is a fact that this is entirely at the discretion of the Department officials who can cite the EU regulation which makes no provision for any notice,” he said. “The EU Commissioner needs to introduce reasonable provisions for inspections. It is not acceptable that farmers are living in fear of inspections and have no rights whatsoever to notice of inspections. After all these years, we still have the unacceptable position that a farmer is not allowed make even the slightest mistake in paperwork nor is there an acceptance at official level that animals lose tags on a regular enough basis.”
“Figures show that the amount of penalties imposed on farmers has escalated in recent years without explanation. The reality is that farmers are working harder than ever to ensure full compliance but no-one can be 100% perfect all the time.”
Mr. Egan also claimed that there seems to be a very heavy-handed approach taken to farmers renting land outside of their own immediate locality. “For everyone else there is a presumption of innocent until proven otherwise but if you rent land, the attitude seems to be that you are up to something. This is not acceptable. Farmers are forced to rent land a distance away from the home place because land is not available in many areas at an economic price. Nobody is condoning the actions of a small minority who might seek to gain an artificial advantage but there has to be an acceptance that the majority of farmers are just doing the best they can and should be treated with some respect for their rights.”