The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have said they have received ‘significant’ clarification from the Commission, with regards farm inspections.
The made the announcement today after a meeting was held between the group and EU Commission officials from both Direct Payments and Rural Development.
The group say that this meeting has helped clarify a number of issues for them relating to farm inspections and land eligibility.
Brendan Joyce, INHFA Vice President, spoke of how the meeting gave them an insight into how farmers are affected on the ground.
He said that it was clarified for them that a control report is required for every single farm inspection.
This report, he added, contains many requirements including the signature of each farmer whose land is inspected.
This he says this is simply just to be used as prove that the farm has had its inspection, and will not imply that farmers agree with any of the findings from said inspections.
He pointed to the case where the Department are in the midst of an appeal against a high court decision on land eligibility, which they lost for not having a signed control report.
Mr. Joyce continued by adding that they have now been made aware of the reasoning behind these control reports by the Commission, and says they have also been informed that the Commission must allow farmers to add any observations they may have from inspections carried out on their farms.
He also said that where any “non-compliance” is found that the farmers in question must receive their own copy of the control report.
On Commonage land he continued “we were informed for the inspection to be valid then all beneficiaries must be given the opportunity to sign the control report and be provided with a copy of the signed report. This is in addition to the right of appeal that must be provided to all beneficiaries.”
Joyce again informed us of the other topic discussed at the meeting, the application by the department concerning land eligibility subject to the Birds and Habitats Directives.
This Article, article 32, allows farmers that have land made ineligible due to the implementation of these directives to have the land reinstated for payment purposes as it was deemed that applying these directives is what caused the land to become ineligible.
Speaking on this issue Joyce said they have been led to believe by the commission that all commonage lands should qualify for protection under Article 32 regardless of whether they are designated SAC or SPA.
He added that “Those CFP’s were never reviewed and therefore curtailed drastically a farmer’s ability to evolve their farming practices”.