The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers’ Association have called on the Minister and his Department to re-assess ongoing farm inspections through the Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.
National president, Colm O’Donnell, said farmers have been contacting the group following notification of inspections. He noted they are concerned about the possible risk of contracting the virus as they seek to comply with inspections.
“Many of the farmers that have contacted us, are elderly or have underlying health conditions. They are currently doing everything possible in limiting their personal contacts as they try to stay safe.”
“While inspectors are informing them that they do not need to be present for the inspection, farmers are required to have all the animals penned.”
“This is where the main problem arises, as these farmers often need help in gathering their stock which puts them in direct contact with people that are not part of their immediate family circle.”
The inspections of most concern relate to cattle and sheep, O’Donnell added. He said they often come with a minimum notice of 24hours, which “gives farmers very little time to organise help”.
Defer inspections for up to a fortnight
While farmers have the option to defer any inspection for up to two weeks, the farm leader stressed how most farmers are reluctant to request this.
He said they feel it “may come against them when the inspection does happen”. Furthermore, he added, a two-week delay will still not take us out of the timeframe for Level 5 restrictions.
O’Donnell accepts that inspections are a part of the farm payment process and a requirement under CAP regulations. However, he said there is a need to recognise the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in due to Covid-19.
“We need to provide the same level of protection to vulnerable farmers as any other Irish or EU citizen.”
Postpone for duration of Level 5 restrictions
“It isn’t unreasonable to offer these farmers the opportunity to postpone any inspection for the duration of our Level 5 restrictions.”
It should be noted that the people carrying out those inspections are also at risk, he added.
“The opportunity to defer these inspections should be offered to the farmer by the DAFM Inspector when they are been notified of the inspection.”
“By making this offer, vulnerable farmers won’t feel compelled to risk their own health to carry out the inspection.”
The INHFA has contacted the DAFM regarding the above suggestion.