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Opinion: Minister should cap the number of times DAFM can inspect farmers

Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Carol Nolan, explains why she believes the DAFM should review how it conducts ‘random’ farm inspections.

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, should revise his department’s inspection regime.

He must implement a cap with respect to the number of times that a farmer can be randomly inspected over a certain period.

DAFM farm inspections 

I raised the matter with the Minister in a parliamentary question.

This comes following a notable rise in the number of farmers reaching out to me who had concerns around the selection process. In particular, they raised concerns surrounding the fairness and frequency of the process.

We are all aware that farm inspections in this state are essentially governed by the EU, specifically EU Regulations governing Direct Payment and Rural Development Schemes and the need to ensure compliance with Good Agricultural and Environment Condition (GAEC).

This is something that, at least in principle, most farmers are happy to accept since the vast majority are engaged in good practice as a matter of routine.

From what I am hearing; however, there is a problem with applying these EU Rules, particularly the risk analysis process on which cases are being selected on a ‘risk and random basis.’

For the farmers who are contacting me, the process seems anything but ‘random’.

In fact, in some instances, farmers feel that they are being over-selected. This is having a detrimental impact not only on productivity but also on mental health.

Minister McConalogue tells me that any amendments to the selection process would require a change in the EU regulations.

But surely, in very many cases, all it would take is for a bit of cop-on to be applied and for inspectors to realise where the areas of genuine concern exist and where it is a case that a farmer is being disproportionately singled out.

No one is saying let’s abandon all inspections. However, clearly, we need to look again at how the system is operating in the real world and amend accordingly.

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