The Department of Agriculture has been called on to reassess the continuation of farm inspections through Level 5 COVID-19 restrictions.
The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) has asked that farmers be offered the opportunity to defer inspections until after Level 5 when contacted by an inspector.
INHFA president Colm O’Donnell said farmers had contacted the organisation following notification of inspections concerned about the possible risk of contracting the virus.
“Many of the farmers who 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,” he said.
Farmers are not required to be present for the inspection but in most cases are required to have animals penned. The biggest concern was on cattle and sheep farms, O’Donnell said, as inspections “often come with minimum notice of 24 hours which gives farmers very little time to organise help”.
It also put farmers in contact with people that are not part of their immediate family circle.
Farmer do have the option to defer an inspection for up to two weeks but most were reluctant to avail of it as they “feel it may come against them when the inspection does happen”. An inspection delayed by two weeks also still fall within Level 5 restrictions.
O’Donnell stressed that while inspections were an important part of the farm payment process there needed to be a recognition of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding 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,” he said.
We need to provide the same level of protection to vulnerable farmers as any other Irish or EU citizen
O’Donnell concluded by stating: “We have contacted the Department on this and are hopeful that they will take on board our suggestions.”