Speaking after a delegation from North Tipperary IFA today addressed the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture about the inspection regime in North Tipperary, the IFA leader said that the issues highlighted by North Tipperary were shared by farmers in other parts of the country.
Joe Healy said, “While the overall inspection and penalty rate in Ireland is relatively low, the implications for the farmers involved can be very significant. There is a very genuine fear factor for farmers”.
“Most of those carrying out inspections understand the practicalities of farming. However, there are a relatively small number of inspectors who have gained a reputation for being draconian in their interpretation of the rules and unreasonable,” he said.
“The Department may say that they have a complaints process in place, but the reality is that individual farmers are afraid to make a complaint. Their livelihoods are at stake,” he said.
IFA Deputy President Richard Kennedy said, “There is increased frustration amongst farmers as they are being penalised for minor issues by inspectors while there are no implications for the Department of Agriculture when they miss payment deadlines and leave farmers waiting for money for months”.
“Any farmer whose payment has fallen outside the Charter of Rights deadlines due to delays by the Department should not be inspected,” he said.
He applauded the courage shown by farmers in North Tipperary led by County Chairman Tim Cullinan for highlighting the concerns of IFA members in North Tipperary.
Joe Healy concluded by saying, “While we fully accept that farmers have to meet certain standards to qualify for schemes, the Department needs to look at their inspection protocols. They need to ‘rein-in’ the relatively small number of inspectors across the country who seem to relish putting farmers through the mill at inspection time”.