Penalty fears stall farmers' charter
Attempts to sign off on a new farmers' charter stalled again last week, following farm leaders' claims that the new regime would result in increased penalties.
A tougher penalty regime for minor breaches of compliance by farmers in EU schemes was the major stumbling block during negotiations between the farm organisations and senior Department of Agriculture officials last Thursday.
The Department had proposed that farmers found to have a minor non-compliance would be reclassified into a 'higher risk' category, exposing them to increased levels of inspections.
In addition, if the non- compliance issue was repeated in a subsequent inspection, the farmer would be subjected to a three-fold increase in penalties.
The yellow card system championed favoured by farm leaders has also been replaced with an 'early warning' system in the latest proposals.
Concerns are also being expressed by farmers about the legal standing of any charter.
When asked about the status of the talks, a Department spokesperson claimed that a "small" number of issues remain to be resolved.
However, ICMSA deputy president, Pat McCormack, said that "significant" changes were necessary to win his organisation's support for the charter.