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Department outlines on-farm Inspection Policy

- 92% OF FARMERS GET ADVANCE NOTICE OF INSPECTION -

The Department of Agriculture and Food today indicated that 92% of farmers selected for Single Payment Scheme (SPS) and Disadvantaged Areas Scheme (DAS) inspection in 2006, are pre-notified of the inspection visit.

The value of these schemes to Irish farmers is some €1.55 billion annually and, under EU rules, the Department is required to carry out certain levels of on-the-spot inspections on applicants under these schemes. For the 2006 schemes, 8,200 farmers have had their holdings selected for on-the-spot inspection out of some 130,000 applicants under the SPS (over 100,000 of these are also applicants for DAS).

The Department policy towards on-farm inspection has been to give advance notification of up to 48 hours in all cases. This policy of systematic pre-announcement of inspections was questioned by the EU Commission in July 2006 and its unacceptability was conveyed to the Department in a formal communication in August. As a result, some 650 farms out of 130,000 involved in the SPS were subsequently selected for unannounced inspection. The balance of inspection cases, representing 92% of the 8,200 farms selected for SPS/DAS inspection in 2006, are all pre-notified to the farmer who is given the maximum advance notice allowable under the regulations viz. 48 hours notice.

It should be noted that the total level of cross compliance penalties applied in Ireland in 2005 - the first year of application of the Single Payment Scheme - amounted to about €330,000, the equivalent of 0.029% of the total €1.2 billion Single Payment financial envelope for Ireland and an average of about €250 per penalised farmer.

At the request of the farm bodies, the Department is committed, in the Charter of Rights for Farmers 2005-2007, to carrying out all Single Payment Scheme and Disadvantaged Area Scheme checks during a single farm visit in most cases.

The Department is also committed in the Charter of Rights to pursuing, with the European Commission, a strategy to deliver advance notification of 14 days for inspections. The matter has been raised with the Commission on a number of occasions since 2004, particularly in the context of the Irish situation where we are applying a fully decoupled and essentially area-dependent Single Payment Scheme. The case has again been made recently by the Minister to Commissioner Fischer Boel and will be a key point for Ireland in the CAP simplification initiative of the Commission which is now underway. Minister Coughlan had a meeting earlier this week with her German counterpart, Horst Seehofer, who takes over the chair of the Agriculture Council in January, where she gave her wholehearted support to his proposal to make simplification of the CAP a core issue during the German presidency.

The Department believes that pre-notification of SPS/DAS inspections fits in with the practicalities of Irish agriculture where increasingly, farmers are also engaged in off-farm employment. In a decoupled Single Payment Scheme system, the provision of advance notification of inspection to the farmer should not negatively impact on the effectiveness of the control. However, as the EU regulations stand, the Department is obliged to carry out a small proportion of inspections without prior notification and this is what is being done in 2006. The Minister and the Department are seeking authority to allow advance notification in all inspection cases and will continue to press this point in the CAP simplification process.

26 November, 2006

Date Released: 26 November 2006