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FAQs about the ‘Stay at Home’ phase

The Government has implemented significant public health measures to prevent the spreading of Covid-19. In the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, published on 3rd May, a plan to relax some of these measures is set out. However, many measures will remain in place for some time yet. In certain limited circumstances, there are exceptions allowed for some workers in key businesses but for the majority of people, the rule remains simple: Stay at home.

There is guidance for employers and employees and the self employed, including farmers, to decide whether you are providing an essential service and/or the extent to which the measures continue to apply. It is not necessary to seek official authorisation - it is up to you to objectively and fairly make the assessment in each case, taking into account the spirit of these measures which is to keep you, your family and community safe. 

This document is provided as assistance based on common questions the Department has received. However, the Department is not the arbiter in these matters, you must make your own decisions based on the facts of your own case and bearing in mind that many tasks can be postponed for the duration of the ‘Stay at home’ phase.  

Directions from a member An Garda Síochána must be followed in all circumstances.

The list of Essential Service Providers can be found here, It is important that you read both this document and the Roadmap to get the full details of the measures currently in force.

Is the Department open for business?

The Department remains open for business and can be reached at the normal contact numbers or by e mail, public offices remain closed at present. There is a specific COVID 19 Information Line at the following number: 076 1064468

How do I contact DAFM?

The Department’s public offices are closed to the public for the present, however, a telephone information line to assist farmers with their queries in relation to current COVID-19 restrictions has been in place from 1 April and the dedicated phone number is 076 1064468.

The phone lines are open from 9.30am to 12.30m and from 2pm to 5pm.  A range of online facilities are also available.

For more information, please visit www.Gov.ie  and click on the ‘Agriculture’ box towards the bottom of the page.

Essential Services and workers

What are the essential services and which workers are essential workers?

The list of essential service providers document List of Essential Service Providers sets out broadly the categories of essential workers. In the agri-food, forestry and fisheries sectors - these include:

  • farmers
  • farm labourers
  • farm relief service workers
  • others involved directly or indirectly in crop and animal production and related activities (including veterinary services),
  • workers involved in fishing.
  • Depending on the nature of the services, this category may include farm and forestry contractors and/or other suppliers of farm services.
  • workers in manufacturing, including in the food and beverage industry, prepared animal feeds, and pulp, paper and wood manufacturing
  • workers in the manufacture of pulp, paper, paperboard and wood
  • wholesale and distribution services necessary for the sale of food and beverages.

It is a matter for each company/individual to assess whether they are involved in providing essential services and then whether any individual is essential in providing that particular service. There is no need to seek official authorisation from the Department in this regard.

Following a number of enquiries, it has been clarified that the deliveries of concrete for essential minor works on farms (such as the pouring of concrete for silage pits) is permitted, as this is part of the essential business of farming at this time of year.  In accordance with the Public Health advice, premises must not be open to the public and these services should be provided for essential works only.

In all cases, plans should be in place for all essential workers to carry out their work while observing 2 metre physical distancing and all other relevant HSE advice.

Will the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine be issuing letters/certificates to show that someone is an essential worker or that a particular activity can resume?

No, there is no need to seek official authorisation from the Department.  Farmers, and other self-employed workers, should carry one form of identification in case they are stopped by An Garda Síochána. Employees engaged in essential work should carry either a work identification card or a letter from their employer indicating that they are an essential employee and one other form of identification.

Do farmers or other essential workers aged over 70 have to cocoon?

The HSE guidance is that Cocooning is strongly advised for everyone over 70 years of age. Updated advice allows for people over 70 to leave their homes for a limited period to take some exercise but they should have no interaction, or minimal interaction, with other people during this period.

If a farmer can do essential work without coming into face to face contact with other people, or without touching surfaces that other people may have contaminated, then they can continue to work on the farm and tend to livestock and crops.

If there are essential tasks on the farm which require more than one person, older farmers should not hesitate to ask for help from family and neighbours but should ensure that social distancing is possible, that it is possible to stay at least 2m apart.

If an older farmer needs additional help or has any concerns, they should ring the local community support Information Line (there is one in each local authority area) or the local Garda station. Anyone who visits the farm, including farm workers, contractors and farm relief services, should ensure that they maintain 2 metre physical distancing.

Can I move my animals? / Can I move my animals more than 5 kms?

Yes, the current advice is that you can move animals as part of the business of farming, which is an essential service. There is no restriction on the distance, however one should reflect on whether such movement is actually essential at a particular point in time.

Are marts open?

Normal mart auction activity cannot resume until further notice. However, in some instances mart managers have opened marts’ facilities on a limited basis where distancing and safety issues can be addressed. Mart managers may also consider some services to be essential and to comply with the Government announcements on COVID-19 restrictions. Within that overall framework, and assuming that employers are in a position to put in place mechanisms that fully respect HSE guidelines in relation to physical distancing and other measures, it may be possible for mart owners to use their systems and facilities to put in place alternative trade facilitation mechanisms that would support the orderly sale of animals necessary to support the essential business of farming. This includes where the movement of animals is essential and in particular to maintain the food supply chain and protect the health and welfare of animals. Examples of such services include:

  • For calves, a service whereby a farmer can deliver calves to the mart, by appointment, so that orders for purchase can be matched and facilitated via the mart;
  • For older livestock, a weighing service for lots of cattle/sheep, by appointment, with the mart facilitating the transaction between a buyer and a seller;
  • Online or brokerage services to facilitate sales.

Animal Welfare

Measures relating to animal welfare, such as shearing, farriery etc., and works that are in respect of maintaining a safe environment for animals are considered essential.

Is dog grooming considered essential?

While this is not a matter for this Department, as such, where it is considered critical from an animal welfare aspect you could proceed with such cases on a pre-arranged appointment basis only, however you should not be open to general public for normal/general business purposes. In addition, you need to ensure that you follow the HSE guidelines relating to social distancing, hygiene, PPE, etc.

Business operators need to assess their own position taking account of the HSE guidelines and the Government “Roadmap for Re-opening Society and Business”   

Is transporting a mare for breeding purposes considered an essential service?

Yes, currently there is no restriction on the movement of animals within the country for farming purposes, including for breeding. HSE public health guidelines must be observed at all times.

Can I arrange for a knackery service to collect dead animals from my farm?

Yes, this is an essential service associated with farming.

Can veterinary visits to farms continue?

Yes, veterinary services are considered to be essential.

Are Turf Cutters considered essential service providers?

The NPWS (National Parks & Wildlife Service), after consultation with the Department of the Taoiseach, considers that domestic turf cutting on non-designated bogs (bogs which are not Special Areas of Conservation, Natural Heritage Areas, and candidate Special Areas of Conservation), with any necessary regulatory consents in place if required, is an agriculture activity to be carried out by essential service providers, under the new public health guidelines, involved indirectly in crop production and related activities.  Any service provider engaged in this activity at this time must operate strictly in accordance with the guidance issued by the Department of Health and the HSE in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak such as that physical distancing must be observed while the activity is taking place. The service provider must also act in accordance with any COVID-19 related guidance issued by the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) or any similar recognised body. The service provider, while undertaking the activity, must not be over 70 years of age, must carry a Driving Licence as ID and some indication that he/she engages in the activity e.g. proof of membership of the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland.

No individual should dry/foot/stack the cut turf on a bog while the current travel restrictions for citizens are in place

I’m a Farm Contractor – can I continue to provide services to farmers as usual?

Farm contractors can continue to provide essential services to farmers such as slurry spreading. However, routine tasks that are not immediately critical should not be undertaken. It is a matter for contractors to make decisions as to whether specific tasks are essential or not at this particular time.

Is Horticulture included as an essential business?

Yes, horticultural production, including nurseries are deemed to be included within the Agriculture Essential Business List. Activities may include cultivation and supply of fruit and vegetables and the ongoing seasonal planting, harvest and maintenance of horticulture plants. However, these operations cannot be open to the public.

Is the supply of fertiliser and lime considered essential?

Yes, fertiliser and lime are considered essential inputs for crop and livestock production and their continued supply and availability to farmers is therefore deemed to be essential. Essential activities include manufacturing, transport, distribution and sale.

Can the supply of animal feed to farms continue?

Yes, guidance allows for the normal activities of agriculture to continue and animal feed is essential for livestock production.  The continued supply and availability of animal feed to farmers is therefore permitted.

Can animal feed mills continue to operate?

Yes, the manufacture of prepared animal feeds is included in the list of essential service providers under the public health guidelines. 

Can the import of raw materials for the manufacture of raw materials continue?

Yes, the import and transport of raw materials necessary for the manufacture of prepared animal feeds can continue.

Schemes, Payments, Inspections

Can BPS Application’s application continue to be submitted?

The closing date for submission of a 2020 BPS application was 15th May 2020. Applicants may submit a late application within a 25-calendar day period after 15th May, i.e. up to 9th June. However deductions to payments, across a range of schemes, at a rate of 1% per day will apply to applications received during this period. Applications submitted after that date will not be accepted except in cases of force majeure or exceptional circumstances.  

Where a BPS application has been lodged by the 15 May deadline, farmers can make amendments to the application submitted up until 31st May without penalty.  129,000 BPS applications were received by the 15 May deadline. This is in line with application numbers in previous years

Will farm payments be made on time?

DAFM has introduced a range of measures for handling scheme applications and payment processing to take account of movement restrictions (we will focus on telephone, text messaging and online interaction with customers).  These measures are being kept under review. DAFM has also sought flexibilities at EU level to allow scheme payments to be delivered later this year even though all regulatory checks and controls may not be completed on time.

Are farm inspections taking place?

The Department is recommencing routine on-farm visits on a phased, risk basis over the coming weeks in order to avoid delays in payments and to meet scheme requirements. Our priority remains unchanged, the health & safety of our customers, our staff and their families is paramount. Inspecting Officers are required to follow best practice and HSE guidelines on Hygiene throughout the inspection process.

Regulatory requirements

Has the Application Date for the Nitrates Derogation been changed?

The application deadline was Friday, April 24th and applications will not now be accepted.

Are there changes to the BVD sampling arrangements?

No, farmers must continue to tissue tag calves as soon as possible after birth and submit the sample to the designated BVD laboratories for testing as normal. Farm bodies have offered assistance where farmers are unable to submit samples, for example, due to self- isolation or cocooning.  Currently turnaround times for tissue tag testing are largely unaffected, but this may be subject to change.