Speaking at a protest outside the office of the Minister for Agriculture in Kildare St, Dublin today, IFA Deputy President Tim O Leary accused Minister Coveney of foot-dragging on finalising a new Charter of Rights for farmers.
He said farmers were promised a new Charter to coincide with the implementation of the new CAP, which commenced on Jan 1st 2015. “Farmers are extremely frustrated with the lack of progress from Minister Coveney in finalising a new Charter of Farmers’ Rights. It’s time the Minister delivered fair play for all farm families.”
Tim O’Leary said the failure of the Minister to act has allowed the negotiations on the new Charter to get bogged down on inspections, with no movement by the Department. He said, “Minister Coveney has to intervene in this logjam, resolve the key outstanding issues, and insist that a new, improved Charter is implemented without further delay”.
IFA is demanding that the new Charter incorporates fair notice of inspection, the elimination of duplication, a reduction in overall inspections as well as increased tolerances and a new yellow card system for unintentional non compliances.
The IFA Deputy President said farmers had become increasingly frustrated at the burden of bureaucracy, unannounced inspections, land eligibility and other penalties being imposed by an inflexible and unfair EU regime.
Tim O Leary said that the IFA had engaged constructively with the Department of Agriculture for over a year on a new Charter to address farmer concerns. Progress has been made on many issues, including improved payment deadlines. However he said farmer patience with the process had run out over the failure of the Minister to take a hands-on approach to resolve the inspection issues.
He said the outstanding Charter issues are a real challenge for the Minister to show an understanding of the pressures and stresses on farmers at inspection time, and that he is prepared to take action to ensure a fairer system with reasonable notice of inspection.
Mr. O Leary said with the deadline for SFP applications fast approaching on May 29th, the Minister must immediately address farmer concerns surrounding land eligibility and announce flexibilities and tolerances with clear instructions to planners and farmers for this year’s SFP application. He said this year’s application is particularly important and farmers and their planners need to know what can and can’t be applied on now.
“There is a lot of confusion around the eligible land issue. There is a responsibility on the Department to give practical guidance to farmers that avoids an overzealous interpretation, which would unfairly penalise farmers. Over six months ago, the Department promised a booklet on the issue would be sent to all farmers and this has only finally happened this week.”
The IFA Deputy President said the absence of clear guidelines has left some farmers in a precarious situation due to uncertainty over the eligibility status of some of their land. He said it is very important that farmers are allowed to maximise their payments under the new Basic Payment Scheme, Greening, ANCs and GLAS in this critical first year of the implementation of the new CAP.
On the publication of direct payments, Tim O Leary said Minister Coveney’s confirmation to proceed with EU legalisation by making all individual payments public by the end of May, shows his clear indifference to the real concerns of farmers around the areas of security, confidentiality and data protection. The IFA Deputy President said farmers are outraged that confidentiality is being breached and their personal information will be open to scrutiny by anybody.
He said European taxpayers know that these payments are made to assist farmers in delivering high quality food for Europe’s 500m consumers, while complying with the highest levels of traceability, quality, animal welfare, plant and animal health as well as environmental standards. Tim O Leary again called on the Minister to go back to Europe and reject this provision.