IFA Deputy President Eddie Downey has led an IFA delegation in a meeting with senior EU Commission officials in Brussels to discuss CAP implementation and simplification, highlighting the significant problems in Ireland with the increase in inspection penalties and the claw back problems on Single Farm Payment and mapping issues.
Eddie Downey said the major investment and costs by farmers in online SFP applications and improved knowledge on the cross compliance areas over the years has led to much more accurate applications by farmers. He said based on this, error levels should be decreasing rather than increasing and nobody can explain the increase in eligibility and cross compliance penalties.
The EU Commission said they were aware of the increase in penalty rates in Ireland, but could not explain them and had received no explanation from Ireland. They said this was the primary responsibility of the Irish Department of Agriculture. Eddie Downey said it is now up to the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to intervene and ensure that farmers are treated fairly.
Eddie Downey told the EU Commission that it is totally unfair that changes in the way the Department are interpreting and applying the rules, and the use of more accurate maps and satellite photographic material against farmers, to apply penalties retrospectively as far back as 2009. “When farmers applied in previous years they used the best information available, most of which was supplied by the Department of Agriculture. It is very unfair that new information and technology would be used to impose penalties retrospectively on farmers. Again, the EU Commission said this was a matter for the Department as they decide the line of application and control in Ireland and not the EU Commission.”
The IFA Deputy President told the EU Commission that in the new CAP implementation it is vitally important that there is real simplification with reduced bureaucracy under the SFP. In addition, he said there must be adequate notice of up to 14 days for all inspections, proper and flexible tolerance levels to deal with unintentional errors, an effective yellow card system, lower penalties, no duplication and reduced inspections.
Eddie Downey said a new Charter of Rights must be put in place and he called on Minister Coveney to commence discussions in this regard. “It is essential that there is more flexibility under the new CAP to increase tolerances and reduce inspections and penalties as the existing system was choking farming under the bureaucracy and red tape. The stress and pressure imposed on farm families as a result of the inflexible and harsh inspection and penalty system is totally unnecessary and must be changed in the CAP implementation.”