'Big Brother' farm inspections must be halted, says IFA chief
Published 15/01/2014 | 02:30
THE Government has been urged to end its "Big Brother" approach to farm inspections by creating a new Charter of Farmers' Rights.
New Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Eddie Downey has called for a fundamental shift in how farmers are treated. "I am demanding a new Charter of Farmers' Rights that does away with the 'Big Brother' mentality and treats all farmers with respect," he said at the IFA AGM in Dublin.
Mr Downey said there was a huge "fear factor" associated with unannounced inspections where farmers were asked to produce detailed records that no business would be able to supply at such short notice.
He called for realistic notice periods, and said he had discussed this with a senior EU Commission official who had said there was flexibility on how inspections are carried out.
Mr Downey called for a yellow card system for minor infringements before penalties are imposed, as currently farmers could lose 3pc to 20pc of their EU-direct payment for minor breaches.
He said while the Department of Agriculture's Special Investigation Unit must investigate criminal or fraudulent matters, they should treat farmers with respect.
In his inaugural address, Mr Downey said one of his priorities would be to improve farm incomes. The average farm income in 2013 was just €21,400, compared with €32,200 for average industrial earnings and €48,300 in the public sector.