€947,000 spent on satellite farm inspections this year

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has spent €947,000 this year on farm satellite inspections, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

Minister Creed informed the Dail of this spend on Tuesday, adding that €1.127 million was spent on such inspections in 2016.

Minister Creed said: “The Remote Sensing (Satellite) inspection process involves the processing of a large range of satellite imagery received at various stages throughout the year.”

Expanding on this, the minister said: “Each case selected for inspection is then comprehensively reviewed using this imagery to ensure that the claimed area in the application form corresponds to the area farmed by the applicant, that the different crop types are as claimed and that eligible land or features are included for payment purposes.

Minister Creed explained that where it is impossible to accurately assess land eligibility by satellite images, a field examination carried out by an inspector is implemented instead.

Payments are not made on a county basis, the minister said.

Farm inspections

On the topic of farm inspections, the CEO of Bord Bia, Tara McCarthy, was recently called upon to defend the Irish Food Board’s criteria for inspecting dairy, beef and sheep farms under the relevant quality assurance schemes in Origin Green.

The methodology of the inspections; as well as the frequency with which they occur; was repeatedly criticised and questioned by farmers at the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association’s (ICMSA’s) annual general meeting (AGM) in Limerick, earlier this week.

During her presentation at the event, McCarthy outlined that Bord Bia has approximately 100 auditors carrying out over 800 audits a week.

However, farmers have taken issue with the same “silly questions” being asked during every audit.

Responding to criticism, McCarthy said: “It is challenging to be asked the same questions each year, but that’s the accredited nature of this scheme. That’s what we are inspected on. Because the year we don’t ask those questions, is the year something could have changed.

Everything we do is independently audited and accredited. So just as you are being audited, so are we.

“Obviously we don’t want to waste anybody’s time; but, we have to have a constant response to the key questions that are important to our customers.”