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Coughlan outlines views on Cross Compliance in advance of Council of Ministers meeting

Speaking in advance of the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting on 11/12 June, the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., today highlighted the importance of progressing the proposals in the Commission's report on cross-compliance. The areas of concern for farmers and administrations had been clearly identified in the debate on the report and it was very important for all concerned that the appropriate amendments to the Commission's proposals are agreed and made operational in a reasonable timeframe, the Minister said.

Minister Coughlan said that through her efforts and those of other Ministers in the Council, the Commissioners and the President of the Council had been made well aware of the principal concerns of farmers in the areas of cross-compliance and simplification. The Minister was happy that Ireland's initiative on many of the issues - not least the need for adequate advance notice of inspections which recognised the practical realities of modern day farming - was finding support from more Member States. While this was very welcome, Minister Coughlan said she was well aware that there was still a long way to go to convince the Commission and to secure the necessary changes to cross-compliance arrangements. She would be doing her utmost at the Council next week to get her fellow Ministers and the Commissioner to understand and accept the need for reform of the cross-compliance requirements in a way that reduces red tape and recognises the practical situation on farms.

In tandem with the Commission's proposals on its review of cross-compliance, the Minister said that her Department had undertaken a review of the paperwork associated with cross-compliance inspections with a view to simplification and a practical approach. The inspection report forms have been substantially reviewed and will now be discussed with the farming bodies.

Minister Coughlan pointed out that the paperwork involved in the inspections is internal Department documentation for use by the Department inspector only. In no circumstances do these documents have to be filled in by the farmer. The fact is that the farmer being inspected does not have to complete any paperwork apart from signing the inspection report if he/she so wishes. She pointed out that two thirds of the 7,000 or so farmers to be inspected in 2007 will be checked for no more than two of the 18 cross compliance requirements. The number of inspections at 7,000 is down from approximately 18,000 before decoupling. In any language, this is major simplification.

In conclusion, Minister Coughlan drew attention to the fact that the cross compliance arrangements in place are a critical element in delivering payments in excess of €1.6 billion to Irish farmers in 2007. She remains committed to making this whole process as simple and user friendly as possible reflecting the daily reality of life for Irish farmers. "I will continue to press this further at EU level, including at the next weeks Council of Ministers meeting in Luxembourg".

6 June, 2007

Date Released: 06 June 2007