‘There should be no fine if an inspector doesn’t carry out an inspection correctly’

If an inspector doesn’t carry out an on-farm inspection correctly, there should be no fines issued as a result of that inspection, according to Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill.

Deputy Cahill made the comments as he attended an Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) event to highlight the importance of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget to Irish agriculture.

The Tipperary TD was responding to calls from the IFA that the proposed new delivery model and subsidiarity of CAP must simplify and reduce the burden of the cross compliance and inspection regime at farm level.

The IFA is also pushing for a ‘close-out approach’ to be introduced; it is hoped that this would allow farmers to rectify non-compliance issues without a penalty.

As well as this, the farm organisation believes that all inspections should be limited to 1% – with 14 days’ advance notice given to farmers and no duplication by state agencies.

Speaking to AgriLand, Deputy Cahill said: “We felt – in north Tipperary especially – that people were being very victimised by the way the inspection regime was implemented. I think we need common sense; no one has any time for any one who is fraudulent.

A ‘yellow card’ system needs to be put in place where there are minor offences, so a farmer can get a week or 10 days to put things right.

“We’ve had cases where people have got 100% penalties, which virtually put them financially bankrupt. There was absolutely no sense to the way the inspection regime was implemented,” he said.

Inspection procedure

As a farmer himself, the Fianna Fail TD strongly feels that if an inspector doesn’t carry out an inspection correctly there should be no fine resulting from it.

Continuing, he added: “If you got a summons for a driving offence – or a summons for any criminal offence – if the paperwork wasn’t correct and if the procedures weren’t carried out correctly, it would be thrown out of court.

The same should apply to inspections; if things aren’t done with accordance to what is laid down, there should be no fines.

“In the past, the conditions of schemes have been changed without any notification to the farming bodies; I know farmers who got caught because of those changes.

“We have a charter of rights and there should be full consultation with any changes that are made,” he said.

Going forward he believes that a “real and fair interpretation of the rules” needs to be kept in mind when inspections are being carried out and that this would “take a lot of the problems away”.