Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 16 January 2018

John Shirley: SIU visit was a reminder of why the inspection regime has to change

Protest: An IFA protest took place outside the Department of Agriculture in Portlaoise last week. The IFA accuse the Department of imposing unfair fines on farmers, with these penalties increasing from
Protest: An IFA protest took place outside the Department of Agriculture in Portlaoise last week. The IFA accuse the Department of imposing unfair fines on farmers, with these penalties increasing from

John Shirley

I had unwelcome callers last week. There I was pushing a lawn mower under the baking hot sun when they arrived. "My name is Mr X from the special investigation unit (SIU) of the Department of Agriculture along with my colleague Mr Y," they announced.

Thinking that I am generally compliant and supportive of the rules, I showed my locked-up medicines cabinet. I provided the animal remedies record and the prescription documentation for antibiotics.

The SIU men must have found them interesting since they took away my records, my prescriptions and a couple of part-used bottles of livestock antibiotics. I tried to see which antibiotics bottle the SIU man had taken, but he refused to allow this.

I do not know what will happen next.

Farmers should be aware that having a record of all animal medicines used on the farm is not sufficient.

You must also maintain a register of all medicines purchased and brought onto the farm. Also every prescription medicine bottle or pack must carry the prescription label.

I would have a lot more time for the approach of the HSA (Health and Safety Authority) than that employed by SIU. I also had a fairly recent visit from a HSA inspector.

Again I thought that I was reasonably compliant in this area with guards on tractor PTOs and a safety statement in my possession, so I wasn't unduly worried.

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However, the HSA man did find an electric circuit (RCD) error between the plug sockets to the fuse box.

He pointed this out, suggested that I have it corrected and that he would call back some time to verify that the task was carried out. This was duly done. Both farmer and inspector were happy.

For good measure another inspector appeared last week when I was unloading cattle at a local meat plant.

This time the examination concerned the cattle trailer and the fact that the cattle should arrive in good condition. Happily, after recording name and address he seemed satisfied.

What will it be next? A cross compliance inspection for the Single Farm Payment? An inspection under the Nitrates Directive? Disadvantaged Area inspection (unlikely since I'm not in it)? An AEOS inspection?

A quality assurance inspection? Maybe even an inspection for the septic tank, animal welfare, animal feed. The list is endless.

Others in the food business tell me that they live under a regime of even more intense inspection and sampling analysis.

In the recent CAP reform deal, one of the promised changes is that future farm payment inspections will incorporate a warning system that will replace the practice of imposing small penalties.

This makes sense all round.

It gives farmers a better chance to adhere to the myriad of rules without the hassle and torment of the existing inspection regime.

Hopefully the farm organisations can make progress with the Irish and EU authorities on this proposal.

The average farm income in 2012 of €25,483 is still way below the average industrial wage. Of that €25,483, more than 80pc was from direct payments.This is why the prospect of inspections puts such dread into farmers.

The problem is that farmers are easy targets for State inspection and regulation. Just contrast the zeal of State regulation for farmers with the lack of regulation in the banking sector as revealed by the Anglo Irish Bank tapes in this newspaper.

This monumental neglect of the State's duty to regulate bank activity is the prime cause of Ireland's debt crisis and involvement of the IMF in our affairs.

Instead of being censored for this neglect, we find that the State people involved were rewarded with huge gratuities and pensions.

Gratuities in the order of €400,000 and pensions well in excess of €100,000 a year were awarded.

This money is coming out of the same national purse which is cutting carers' allowances and the funding of special needs teaching in schools.

No wonder the general public is so angry and frustrated.

Indo Farming