‘Farmers live in terror of department officials coming to the door’

Farmers are “living in terror” of someone from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine coming to their door, according to Mary Rooney of the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

She made the point at a consultation meeting on the formation of the Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 that was held in the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim, last night.

As probably the most well-received contributor on the night, she said: “I have loads of friends in Northern Ireland and they tell me when they see farm people coming out from the Department of Agriculture to their farms, they are coming out to help them.

“I’m married 35 years, and for the first five years or six years that I was married, people from the Department of Agriculture came out to help us with our farm.

But, now the farmers around me that I am dealing with are living in terror of people coming to their door from the Department of Agriculture; that needs to change.

“It needs to change rapidly; because – remember minister – if we all stop farming there will be no need for you,” she said.

Rooney was also critical of Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed for failing to introduce a meal voucher system for farmers who are facing a fodder crisis in the north-west – despite all the farming organisations calling for such a measure.

On the subject of schemes, she outlined a need for simplification moving forward.

She outlined that no one she has spoken to – from accountants, to solicitors, to barristers – could understand how farmers could deal with the red tape involved in schemes such as the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment, Scheme (GLAS).

It’s just absolutely ludicrous. It really is enough to be putting farmers off their heads; their wives have definitely given up. We have to have simplified schemes.

“I mean, it is a pleasure to take out the Sheep Welfare Scheme form and start to fill it out. For God’s sake look at the schemes you are introducing and get rid of the stuff that Coveney introduced.

“Introduce schemes with paperwork we can deal with. The farming money needs to start coming more to farmers and less to planners,” she said.