Addressing delegates at the ICSA Annual Conference in Dublin, new ICSA president Patrick Kent sent a clear message to the Minister for the Agriculture that retrospective penalties for land eligibility overclaims cannot be tolerated.
Mr Kent said the “immense injustice” felt by many farmers over the Department’s land eligibility review cannot be ignored.
“These farmers are coming under extreme pressure to pay bills, which are higher than usual anyway because of the impact of the fodder crisis,” he said.
The suggestion that fines could be dated from 2009 is unacceptable, he stated.
“I am absolutely appalled that there is a serious threat of five years’ retrospective penalties. This cannot be tolerated, and I want to make it clear that ICSA cannot accept such injustice,” said Mr Kent.
The Wexford farmer said the EU Commission had “moved the goalposts” unfairly. “Many farmers are now suffering a penalty on land that they were told was an excellent habitat when they were in REPS. They were forbidden from interfering with the bio-diversity on that land in REPS; now the signal is that the land should be bulldozed or burnt.”
Mr Kent also highlighted the severe pressure being faced by bull beef producers.
“On the ground, there is a sense of impending disaster in beef. It seems unthinkable that a farmer with quality bulls in his shed can’t get them killed. But that is what’s happening, from the North West to South East,” he said.
He warned the Minister that can “forget about 40 per cent expansion for beef” if there is no market for bull beef.
The ICSA leader also expressed major disappointment at the failure to address the perennial problem of so-called “calendar farming” in the Third Nitrates Action Programme, announced yesterday.
“Bad weather until mid-summer and good weather and ground conditions well into December made it clear that there is no logic or reason behind setting arbitrary dates for basic, necessary farming activities. Now we have open season for slurry spreading and weather and ground conditions are not suitable. The revised programme completely ignores the calendar farming problem. Nothing has been done to address the fact that nitrates inspections are now the biggest source of penalties,” said Mr Kent.
He said farmers are “fed up with more and more regulation. They still haven’t seen anyone punished for the horsemeat scandal, but there seems to be no end to penalties for the slightest perceived error on-farm.”