Inspection and Compliance Needs Reform

IFA Deputy President Eddie Downey has called for reform and simplification of the inspection and compliance regime as part of the implementation of the new CAP Reform Agreement at farm level.

Downey said the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must follow through on his commitment for a New Charter of Rights for farmers with fewer inspections, greater tolerances and reduced penalties.

He said the entire inspection process needs to be simplified and streamlined in an efficient and more farmer-friendly manner. He also said that currently farm inspections are extremely complex and bureaucratic with a full inspection similar to a forensic examination involving hundreds of questions.

Downey said there is an unacceptable and constant level of stress and fear among farm families over the possibility of an inspector from the Department of Agriculture arriving in their yard, sometimes unannounced.

On Nitrates inspections, Downey called on Minister Coveney and Minister Hogan to come together to agree a  new more practical and farmer-friendly programme which reduces inspections and eliminates duplication, saying that it makes no sense to have County Council inspectors going round after Department of Agriculture inspectors.

The IFA is proposing a new farmer-friendly Charter of Rights to cover all farm inspections which will include the following basic principles;

–          Delivery of all payments across all schemes on time within agreed deadlines

–          Fair and reasonable advance notice of inspections for all schemes

–          The provision of proper information and awareness to each farmer by the Department

–          Better co-ordination and elimination of duplication of inspections by different bodies

–          Inspections cannot be allowed to delay payments

–          Early, fast and efficient resolution of problems to ensure payments are not delayed

–          Reasonable tolerance levels providing farmers with the opportunity to achieve compliance

–          Elimination of excessive penalties

–          Independent and fair appeals procedure

Downey said IFA will be insisting that reasonable tolerance levels are built into the inspection process to take account of normally occurring unintentional errors that occur at practical farm level. He said penalising farmers for simple unintentional errors is wrong, disproportionate and outdated.

The IFA Deputy President said the Minister must introduce a new consolidated farm inspection process with reasonable advanced notification for all farm visits. He said it is no longer acceptable that inspectors can just walk into farmyards unannounced. In addition, he said all inspections should be completed in one single farm visit and no farm visit should take more than half a day.

He added that the Department of Agriculture’s record on getting payments out to farmers on time and within the deadlines across the major Single Farm Payment and Disadvantage Area schemes was good. He said IFA is committed to working with the Department on a new Charter of Rights for Farmers to improve the inspection and cross compliance process.