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Coughlan announces decrease in the number of farmers to be inspected under Cross-Compliance

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today announced that, following clarification received from the European Commission, the number of farmers to be inspected under Cross-Compliance will reduce this year by some 2,000 from last year's figure of 10,000. This represents a reduction of over 10,000 inspections when compared with the coupled regime in 2004 when over 18,000 inspections had to be undertaken. The Minister said this was a considerable lightening of the burden on farmers and as such was a welcome development.

The Minister said that the rate of on-farm inspection for cross-compliance in Ireland in 2005 was 1% of farmers for each Statutory Management Requirement (SMR), other than identification and registration of bovine animals where, as required by EU law, 5% of producers were inspected. The inspection visits were integrated with ground (eligibility) inspections with a view to ensuring, as far as possible, that only one visit was made to each farm. In this context inspections under the Disadvantaged Areas' Compensatory Allowance scheme were also integrated with the eligibility and cross-compliance inspections.

The Minister said that her officials had initiated discussions with the European Commission with a view to ensuring that only the minimum number of inspections would be carried out in 2006 and subsequent years. The outcome was that for 2006, Ireland can select the population of farmers to be checked for cross-compliance from within the 5% population to be selected for on-farm ground (eligibility) inspections. When carrying out inspections in respect of the 1% of applicants under SMRs other than identification and registration of animals, the Department is obliged to check for compliance for all of the SMRs pertaining to the applicant. The Department must also ensure that at least 5% of producers are inspected under the SMR governing identification and registration of bovine animals.

The Minister said that her Department intended to commence the 2006 inspections for identification and registration of bovine animals within the next week having selected 4% of producers for inspection. The remaining 1% of bovine inspections are included in the integrated inspections. Where possible, inspections would be integrated with a view to ensuring one visit.

Finally, the Minister said that the European Commission indicated that, in principle, it had no difficulty with the idea of a tolerance system as introduced in Ireland in 2005 but the Commission cautioned that non-compliance with SMRs resulting from negligence must result in sanctions in the range of 1%, 3% or 5% depending on the extent, severity and permanence of the non-compliance. In this regard the Commission indicated that its auditors will carry out checks to ensure that all Member States apply the requirements of the regulation.

10 May 2006

Date Released: 10 May 2006