Tuesday, 25 April 2006
Dáil Eireann Debate
564. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if she will honour her undertaking, given to the Milk Rights Group at a meeting in Ballymote, that she would consider allowing ten days notice being given before an on-farm inspection by her Department officials; and the progress which has been made on this matter since. [14610/06]
565. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the notice a Department inspector must give to a person before they call for an on-farm inspection, including the inspection of the herd register and so on. [14611/06]
566. Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food if farmers who are having farm inspections should get at least ten days notice to get work done that weather and other inconveniences had prevented them from doing; if the EC directive will not allow this, her views on then giving farmers ten days after inspection in order that they can attend to items that need attention before any penalties are imposed; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14613/06]
In so far as inspections under the single payment scheme are concerned, the regulations state that notification may be given where the purpose of the inspection is not jeopardised, but such notification must be limited to a maximum 48 hours where eligibility checking or cross-compliance checking on the identification and registration of animals is part of the inspection. However, no advance notification limit is specified where other cross-compliance checks are involved.
Where an on-farm inspection under the single payment scheme does not involve an eligibility check and involves cross-compliance checks other than identification and registration of animals, my Department will give 14 days advance notice of the inspection.
My Department is committed, in the charter of rights for farmers, to pursuing, with the European Commission, the question of allowing 14 days advance notice for all inspections. My officials have already raised this matter with the Commission but the Commission has indicated that it is unwilling to introduce any changes in this regard.
The EU regulations governing the cross-compliance sanctions system sets out a range of percentage reductions. For infringement of a legal standard a 3% reduction is proposed but this could be reduced to 1% or increased to 5% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement. If the non-compliance were repeated a multiplier of three must be applied. In the case of intentional infringement a 20% reduction is provided for but this could be reduced to 15% or increased to 100% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement.
My Department engaged in intensive negotiations with the farming bodies on the implementation of cross-compliance under the single payment scheme in the context of drawing up a new charter of rights for farmers on the delivery of all of my Department’s schemes and services.
In putting in place the inspection system under the single payment scheme, particular attention was given to ensuring that: procedures are fair, equitable and proportional; and the system is standardised to the maximum extent possible across all areas of the country. To achieve these objectives it was necessary to put in place mechanisms that will take due account of whether any non-compliance found is: (a) on its own minor in nature; (b) negligent; or (c) intentional.
The sanctions system that has been introduced for inspections is clearly set out in the charter of rights for farmers. Tolerances are applied for minor infringements which, on their own, are regarded as inadvertent breaches capable of occurring in practical farming situations.
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