With negotiations on a new Farmers’ Charter covering the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to 2027 set to reach their conclusion, there are calls for the agreed Charter Monitoring Committee to be set and “get going”.

The Farmers’ Charter is a set of guidelines outlining how the Department of Agricultural, Food and the Marine interacts with farmers in issues like farm inspections and payments.

The charter is negotiated between the department and farmer organisations, and these negotiations have included the formation of a Charter Monitoring Committee that would monitor the implementation of the charter.

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) is calling for that committee to be established so that checking and monitoring of the charter can begin.

ICMSA deputy president Eamon Carroll said: “The substantive issues such as payment dates and targets have been ironed-out and [we] are satisfied that farmers can be reassured that their rights will be protected under this round of CAP.”

However, he added: “As we approach the end of the negotiations around timelines and action dates, it becomes more obvious that the monitoring dimension must be addressed and set up.”

“It is now 16 months since there was a monitoring committee meeting and this means that issues that should have been raised and dealt with have still not been addressed by department staff,” Carroll said.

“The major case in point is the fiasco that is TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme), where ICMSA flagged really obvious problems early and often but were ignored by the department.

“Those problems are now widely acknowledged and have really undermined the effectiveness of TAMS, but they would have been raised by us at the monitoring committee and we’d have had some way of measuring a response,” he added.

The ICMSA president also warned that, if the monitoring committee is not set up and operational, it risks a repeat of the scheme payment delays and changes to scheme payment dates that occurred across late last year and early this year.

“Last year we had delays in payments and schemes running slower than any of the previous years. We have new target dates that have been penciled into the new provisional charter and if it doesn’t get approved soon, the department will again be able to avoid formal scrutiny on the targets,” Carroll said.

“That might mean losing another summer and autumn without the ability of their representatives…to formally question, with an independent chairperson, the department on the processes and glitches of the many schemes.

“We don’t want to exaggerate the importance of the monitoring committee or the role it plays, but it does work will in most cases and anything we can all do to smooth out the working and interactions should surely be acted on,” he added.