INHFA calls on Department to re-assess Farm Inspections through Level 5 restrictions

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association have called on the Minister and his Department to re-assess their ongoing farm inspections through the Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.

National President Colm O’Donnell outlined how farmers have been contacting us following notification of inspections, concerned of the possible risk of contracting the virus as they seek to comply with these inspections.” Many of the farmers that have contacted us, are elderly or have underlying health conditions and are currently doing everything possible in limiting their personal contacts as they try to stay safe.”

While inspectors are informing them that they don’t need to be present for the inspection farmers are required to have all the animals penned. This stated the INHFA President “is where the main problem arises, as these farmers often need help in gathering their stock which puts them in direct contact with people that are not part of their immediate family circle.”

The inspections of most concern relate to cattle and sheep and continued O’Donnell “often come with minimum notice of 24hours which gives farmers very little time to organise help.” While farmers have the option to defer any inspection for up to two weeks the farm leader stressed “how most farmers are reluctant to ask for this as they feel it may come against them when the inspection does happen. Furthermore, a two-week delay will still not take us out of the timeframe for Level 5 restrictions.

In accepting that inspections are a part of our farm payment process and a requirement under CAP regulations there is, maintained O’Donnell “a need to recognise the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in due to Covid-19. We need to provide the same level of protection to vulnerable farmers as any other Irish or EU citizen. On this basis it isn’t unreasonable to offer these farmers the opportunity to postpone any inspection for the duration of our Level 5 restrictions.” It’s also important to note that the people carrying out those inspections are also at risk.

The opportunity to defer these inspections should he added “be offered to the farmer by the DAFM Inspector when they are been notified of the inspection. By making this offer, vulnerable farmers won’t feel compelled to risk their own health to carry out the inspection.

O’Donnell concluded by stating “how we have contacted the DAFM on this and are hopeful that they will take on board our suggestions.”