Hundreds of farmers from all over the country attended an IFA protest outside the Department of Agriculture offices in Portlaoise this morning, IFA President John Bryan said that farmers are incensed that the Minister would allow his Department to increase penalties and hardship on farm families. Since 2009 the level of these unfair penalties has increased 5-fold from €780,000 to €4.7m in 2012. It is totally unacceptable for the Department to increase the level of inspection penalties and then attempt to hide the fact.
John Bryan has requested an urgent meeting with the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney demanding a full and transparent explanation on the massive increase in inspection penalties imposed on farmers across the direct payment schemes over the last 4 years and especially in 2012. This increase has occurred despite the fact that the Minister gave a commitment to farmers that the wet weather conditions in 2012 would result in a less onerous inspection regime taking account of the difficulties that farm families were facing.
John Bryan said IFA have continually challenged the Department on inspections and the level of penalties being imposed on farmers. He said “despite IFA’s concerns on fines the Department officials repeatedly stated that there was no significant increase in penalties. The latest Department data published in this week’s Farmers Journal shows a massive increase in penalties and proves the Department were deliberately misleading farmers and the independent Charter Review Committee on the matter and confirmed IFA’s suspicions at the time.” He said “this is an extremely serious issue and must be fully addressed and resolved by the Minister for Agriculture”.
John Bryan said “it appears there is serious pressure being applied in the Department from the top down to impose more and more penalties and this is now been borne out by the latest figures released.”
He said “even the latest data provided by the Department is far from transparent on the real level of penalties being imposed as it is presented in somewhat of a camouflaged manner through a 3 year rolling average”. He said “this appears to be nothing other than a further attempt by the Department to hide the real figures”.
John Bryan said “the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney must follow through on his commitment for a New Charter of Rights for farmers with fewer inspections, greater tolerances and reduced penalties”. He has an opportunity to do this in the context of the CAP Reform and immediate discussions must take place on a new charter.