Farm Ireland

Sunday 25 March 2018

Farmers stage sit in at Department's office after being refused meeting

Farmers at today's protest in Tipperary
Farmers at today's protest in Tipperary
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine Michael Creed. Picture: Arthur Carron
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Farmers in North Tipperary are staging a protest in the Department of Agriculture's offices, after they say they were declined a meeting.

Approximately 200 farmers, led by IFA North Tipperary Chairman Tim Cullinane, arrived in the offices of the Department in Nenagh this morning in a dispute over the inspection regime in the area and a number are now refusing to leave.

The farmers occupied the offices around mid morning and requested a meeting with the area inspector, which it is understood was refused.

Cullinane said that the farmers will remain in situ until they are granted a meeting to discuss the situation.

The North Tipperary IFA Chairman said that the treatment of Tipperary farmers on area aid inspections is not acceptable and can no longer be tolerated.

He said that in 2015 there was 321 inspections carried out by the Nenagh office and penalties were applied in 53pc of the cases, amounting to total fines of €1.28m. 

Farmers stage sit in at Department of Agriculture offices in Tipperary
Farmers stage sit in at Department of Agriculture offices in Tipperary

Nationally, he said, the penalty rate is 39pc of inspections and the average penalty is €750.00 compared to an average of €1,300 per inspection in Tipperary

Livestock farmers, he said, are dependant on the single farm payment for 90-100pc of their income and all the protesting farmers are looking for is a reasonable approach by inspectors who come onto farms.

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"We cannot have inspectors arriving on dairy farms at 8am morning and expect the farmer to be available."

He said they are also concerned about the scale of penalties for missing tags. "These tags are approved by the Department of Agriculture but it is farmers who are getting the blame when there is a problem."

Cullinane said the farmers will remain until they are granted a meeting.

it is understood that a meeting has been requested in recent weeks, but the meeting request was declined.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture said that Irish farming receives over €1.4 billion per annum in direct payments; the majority of this is from the EU Budget.

"Payments under various Farm Schemes are subject to compliance by  the beneficiaries with the relevant EU Regulations and the specific terms and conditions of the schemes. 

"In accordance with the requirements of EU Regulations, inspections are carried out at farm level by trained Department staff to ensure compliance by the beneficiaries and consistency in the outcome. Selection of farms for inspection can be random or risk based and many inspections are done by remote sensing (without the necessity of a visit). 

"The Department strives to ensure that farm visits are kept to a minimum and, where possible, that a number of schemes are covered in one visit.

"Where non-compliances are determined, a penalty may apply to payments in respect of the non-compliance on a sliding scale; the level of penalties is on average each year, quite small. The level of penalty varies across each county depending on land type, intensity of farming, etc."

Farmers who are unhappy with penalties, they said, can has recourse to an internal Departmental review (by a different official) of the decision should he/she wish to challenge the outcome of an inspection, or can refer the matter to the Agricultural Appeals Office who will carry out an independent review of any decision.

They also can also refer the matter to the office of the Ombudsman should he/she wish to challenge the decision of the Agricultural Appeals Office.


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