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Coughlan calls for 14-day Notice on Cross Compliance Inspections

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, speaking at the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Luxembourg today, said that she is very much opposed to the retention of unannounced inspections in the areas of animal identification and welfare and feed controls as proposed by the Commission.

Minister Coughlan said: "I believe that this approach is excessive and unnecessary. I favour a 14-day notice in the case of all inspections. I fully accept that it is a critical element of any control system that the inspection visit is implemented in such a way that its purpose is not jeopardised. In my view however, systematic unannounced inspections are not necessary to achieve this objective but add significantly to cost and inefficiencies at a time when simplification is the aspiration. They are also totally impractical in the case of farmers who increasingly are part-time and are engaged in off-farm activities."

Minister Coughlan said that while she fully supported the concept of cross-compliance in the context of the Single Payment Scheme and its extension to the CAP Rural Development measures this year, it is clear that the system was far too complicated and placed an intolerable burden on farmers and administrators. She added that the rules, as they stand, damage the positive aspects of the 2003 CAP reform. "I believe the approach to cross compliance needs to be dealt with in a "joined up" way at Commission level and therefore the full engagement of Commissioners Fisher Boel and Kypriano will be needed to be resolve these issues," said the Minister.

Minister Coughlan said she welcomed the Commission's proposals on tolerances for minor infringements, the "de minimis" proposal and the use of the results of existing controls - the so-called "bottlenecks" proposal.

The Minister went on to say that while she noted the proposal for harmonisation of the control rate at 1%, she is not convinced that this particular proposal is of any benefit in practice given that the results of checks under the sectoral legislation have to be taken into account and should be further investigated.

Ireland has adopted an approach whereby all of the inspections are integrated to the greatest extent possible resulting in a single control visit to the farm. This means that control checks on land eligibility, identification and registration of animals and any other Statutory Management requirements (SMRs) for which the farmer is selected are carried out on the same visit. The proposed harmonisation of the control rate does not represent any material change in the current situation.

In conclusion Minister Coughlan added: "I accept that there should always be a possibility of carrying out some unannounced controls and historically Ireland has always adopted this approach where it was deemed necessary. I would therefore ask the Commission to re-consider its proposals for systematic unannounced inspections."

16 April 2007

Date Released: 16 April 2007