An independent TD has asked Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, why his department is conducting farm inspections during Covid-19 level 5 restrictions.
Roscommon-Galway Independent TD, Denis Naughten, asked McConalogue to give the reason departmental inspectors are still performing on-farm inspections during the level 5 restrictions, given the “potential risk of spreading Covid-19 when it is not deemed essential work”.
Farm inspections during Covid-19
In response to the parliamentary question, McConalogue said: “My Department is continuing to support the farming community in these difficult times, in particular, by ensuring that scheme payments can continue to issue to farmer clients.”
“Conducting on-farm inspections is deemed essential work. Officials in my Department and I are very conscious of the challenges and concerns for all stakeholders posed by the COVID-19 situation.”
“At all times, our priority is to safeguard the health and safety of farm families, our staff and the wider community, while still facilitating scheme payments.”
“Where possible, inspections are being done remotely, thereby avoiding the need for on-farm visits. In certain situations, a farm visit is required in order to complete the pre-payment checks and controls necessary to make vital payments to these farmers.”
Defer farm inspections for up to three weeks
He said inspections are carried out in line with HSE guidelines and Government requirements concerning COVID.
“All inspections are notified in advance and the farmer is afforded an opportunity to defer the inspection for up to three weeks should there be COVID-related concerns or issues.”
“In addition, inspectors are required to adhere to an inspection protocol which gives clear guidance to inspectors on procedures to be followed during the inspection. We cannot defer inspections indefinitely as this would impact payments to scheme participants.” the minister concluded.
For further information on department inspections, click here.