Opinion

Cross compliance and farm safety should be formally linked

Both ICSA and ICMSA have taken a wholly unacceptable position, where farm safety is concerned.

The past week has seen both organisations ridicule completely suggestions coming out of Brussels that farm safety should be made a ‘cross compliance’ related matter.

In truth, responses from these lobby groups to the effect that dealing with farm health and safety in this way will only add another layer of bureaucracy to that which is already confronting farmers just don’t stack up.

The fundamental fact remains that farming is now the most dangerous career pathway to follow in Ireland. This ‘unenviable’ reputation used to be one that hung around the construction sector like a lead weight .

But that all changed, once the Irish Government decided to get tough with that industry and rightly so!

I remember getting a job on a building a site as a student. On the first day I arrived on site wearing a pair of trainers. Five minutes later I found myself being escorted to the front gate by the clerk of works and told not to come back until I was wearing the appropriate foot wear.

That little matter was quite quickly resolved, but I remember that the site received two health and safety inspections during the three month period of my stay.

Let me be clear about this: pushing ahead with lots more farm awareness events and producer-focused training are crucially important, where farm health and safety matters are concerned.

But there has to be balance struck by the authorities between the carrot and the stick approach. I firmly believe that the EU – and or the Irish government – must take a decision in the very near future to become much more focused in the way they address health and safety standards on farms.

One way that farmers can be made take more notice of the issue –in a truly meaningful way – is to hurt them in their pockets – hence my disappointment that both ICSA and ICMSA decided to pour cold water of the cross compliance proposal.

What also amazed me was the alacrity with which the two groups responded to the suggestion from Brussels. It could almost be regarded as a knee jerk reaction.

Anything that can be done to save one more life or cut the accident rate on Irish farms should be given a fair wind. It grieves me to suggest that the ongoing measures designed to meet this need are not working!

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