Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA) president Seán McNamara has welcomed the European Commission's proposal to reduce the number of on-farm inspections by up to 50%.

However, McNamara has questioned how this proposal is coherent with plans for a quadrupling of local authority inspections.

“As part of a wider initiative to alleviate the administrative burden on farmers across the European Union, the Commission has rightly pointed to the burdensome number of on-farm inspections farmers face. Reducing the number of inspections is certainly a step in the right direction and one which our own Government needs to take note of,” he said.

McNamara was referencing the fact that - in contrast to the Commission’s proposal - a new beefed-up national agricultural inspection plan (NAIP) has been launched.

The NAIP working group is chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and comprises representatives from local authorities, the County and City Management Association (CCMA), the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH), the Local Authorities Water Programme (LAWPRO) and Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

No consultation

McNamara said it is astounding that an initiative called the national agricultural inspection plan can be foisted on farmers without any consultation.

"The aim of this plan is to quadruple the number of farm inspections over the coming years.

“The bizarre thing is that we are also told that the Commission is demanding this. It would appear that one part of the Commission does not know what another part is thinking.

"This is not the first time that farmers are being dragged from one proposal to the next by the EU. Is it any wonder that there is so much frustration out there," McNamara said.

Acknowledging the importance of ensuring compliance with regulations, McNamara said that excessive inspections are placing undue strain on farmers.

"Reducing the regulatory burden on farmers is key to keeping the farmers we do have farming and ensuring future generations will farm too. Time and time again, excessive regulations and red tape are cited as reasons to exit farming. Streamlining and simplification across the board is necessary, both here and at EU level," he said.