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Minister Coughlan defends Department approach to Cross-Compliance as fair, reasonable and equitable

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today responded to criticism of cross-compliance inspections under the Single Payment Scheme. "The reality is that the total amount of money withheld because of sanctions applied during cross-compliance inspections in 2005 was €337,000 representing some 0.029% of ?1.16 billion, the total value of the Single Payment Scheme in Ireland in 2005. As less that 1% of farmers participating in the scheme incurred penalties, this cannot be regarded as a harsh regime by any stretch of the imagination" the Minister said.

The Minister went on to say that this low level of penalties was directly attributable to the tolerance system applicable in Ireland in 2005 which her Department officials had developed in the context of negotiations with the farming organisations on the Charter of Rights for Farmers. The main problems found at on-farm inspections during 2005 continued to be issues associated with identification and registration of animals.

Minister Coughlan said she wanted to ensure that the inspection procedures were fair and equitable and that the system is standardized throughout the country. In addition, she wanted to ensure that minor levels of non-compliance do not result in financial penalties.

To achieve these objectives it is necessary to put in place mechanisms that take due account of whether any non-compliance found is:

(a) on its own minor in nature
(b) resulting from negligence or
(c) caused intentionally

"My Department therefore developed a 'weighting system' to be applied for infringements of the Statutory Management requirements with due tolerances for minor infringements which, on their own, are regarded as inadvertent breaches capable of occurring in practical farm situations" she said.

19 July, 2006

Note for Editors

EU regulations provide for a 3% reduction for non-compliance with the Statutory Management Requirement (SMR). 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 within a three-year period the penalty is increased threefold. In the case of intentional infringement a 20% reduction is envisaged but this could be reduced to 15% or increased to 100% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the infringement.

Date Released: 19 July 2006