Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

ID problems spark jump in SFP fines

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

FINEs under the Single Farm Payment (SFP) system have jumped by 66pc, according to the latest figures released by the Department of Agriculture.

SFP fines in 2009 averaged out at €663 per farmer. However, this jumped by €437/fine in 2010, when the average hit €1,100 per head. Fines under the Disadvantaged Area scheme accounted for another €138/farmer.

Tagging, encroachment, withdrawal periods and clean milking parlours were all issues that account for the increased levels of fines.

The criteria under which a farmer is fined are broken down into six main categories -- cattle, sheep, nitrates, GAEC (good agricultural and environmental conditions), pesticides and food hygiene.

One in six farmers that were inspected in 2010 were fined. This averaged out at 6pc of farmers' SFP's.

Irregularities regarding cattle were by far the biggest reason for SFP fines in 2010, with more than two out of every five farmers being fined for bovine identification and registration problems.

A third of these fines were related to CMMS irregularities, such as failure to notify the database of movements, births and deaths. Another third was related to tagging irregularities, while the remainder had problems with missing and inaccurate passports and herd registers.

While the 40.8pc of the total fines accounted for by bovine identification and registration problems was marginally down on the 2009 total of 42pc, nitrates and GAEC problems appear to be on the rise.

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The other areas where fines were incurred related to sheep (14pc), pesticides (8.4pc) and food hygiene (1.7pc).

The percentage of total fines for tagging problems within both the cattle and sheep categories almost doubled from 2009 to 2010. Conversely, the sheep census and cattle CMMS both dropped in relative importance.

The other issue that saw a big increase was failure to observe the correct withdrawal periods for certain products. In 2009, this accounted for just 7pc of breaches under food hygiene rules. In 2010, this figure jumped threefold to 20pc.

Under the same food hygiene heading, failure to maintain a parlour in a clean state or in good repair also doubled in importance from 10pc in 2009 to 23pc in 2010.

In contrast, breaches related to the inability to store, transport or use feed in a manner so as to avoid serious contamination dropped from 28pc to 10pc.

Encroachment under the GAEC heading also increased from a third of all GAEC fines to 44pc.

The ICMSA said that the figures were proof that the Department of Agriculture were continuously "watering down" the tolerance system agreed with farm organisations.

"Farmers are being penalised for issues that merely reflect the reality of day-to-day running of a farm," said ICMSA president, John Comer. "The CAP negotiations are the Minister's opportunity to reform the inspections system," he added.

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