INHFA welcomes Ministers announcement on inspections

The Irish Natura & Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) have welcomed the announcement by Minister McConalogue to suspend all farm inspections not specifically required to support payments until April 22nd.

Speaking on this INHFA Vice President John Joe Fitzgerald detailed how “the INHFA called for this last week and it is good to see that the Minister and his department have listened and acted on this.” While this is a progressive move there is maintained Fitzgerald “more that can be done across other State bodies in relation to inspections especially with our County Councils, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).”

With regard to the HSA and their proposal for a farm inspection blitz the INHFA Vice President stressed the need for them to revisit this strategy, especially in light of the enormous mental pressure farmers are now under. It is, he stated, “important that the HSA acknowledge their remit around health and specifically the mental health of farmers and recognise that inspections around safety at this time will be counter-productive in relation to farmer mental health.”

In addressing the NPWS who are the competent body over designated habitats specifically SACs (Special Areas of Conservation) and SPAs (Special Protected Areas), Fitzgerald called for a flexible approach here. For farmers on hills and on designated lands we must he stated “move to a point where farmers are allowed to feed concentrates and silage on these lands especially where this is the only practical and dry land available to these farmers. In allowing this, farmers need to be reassured that there won’t be any sanction from the NPWS or indeed penalties on their ACRES scorecard.”

In concluding the farm leader detailed how the DAFM (and hopefully other State Agencies) will also need to be flexible with their timelines. “While we all hope the weather will have improved by the 22nd of April, however, if the weather and ground conditions haven’t improved then the date will need to be extended.”