Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has signalled the possibility for a reduction in the number of inspections facing farmers happening in the “short term” when speaking after a meeting of EU farm ministers on Monday.

Ministers from across the EU are on the same page when it comes to cutting the number of inspections and the levels of red tape facing farmers, according to Minister McConalogue.

On RTÉ’s Drivetime, the Minister stated that the Belgian presidency of the European Council which took over in January had been “collecting ideas” as to how these burdens could be reduced and he insisted that the inspection process for farm schemes “certainly can be simplified”.

“There was a clear view among ministers today that we now need to actually ensure that we can reduce red tape in the short term,” the Minister commented.

“And particularly, one of the key things we want to see happen promptly is the need to reduce the amount of inspections that there are in the system, which can be a real source of stress for farmers, because single farm payment and the various CAP schemes are really important for farm family incomes.

“And that prospect of inspections can be a real source of stress for farmers and I look forward to actually seeing real steps taken at EU level to actually address that over the short term.”

Commission open to change

Minister McConalogue’s comments come after the European Commission indicated last week that it would bring forward proposals which could slash the number of inspections for some farm schemes in half.

This would work by making better use of satellite checks to reduce the number of on-the-ground inspections required to administrate the CAP.

The proposals came amid weeks of tractor protests across the EU, in Ireland and at the heart of the EU machine in Brussels.

On Monday, farmer protesters lit fires outside the meeting of farm ministers in Brussels, with the demonstration seeing police using tear gas on some groups of protesters.

The issue of over-regulation is a common issues raised by farmers across many of these protests.

CAP budget pressures

Minister McConalogue also stated that the issues of regulatory burden and a stagnant CAP budget are linked.

“We need to make sure that the EU budget will increase, that is central and really important in relation to supporting farm family incomes,” he continued.

“And also, more in the short term, we need to work to make sure that we simplify the CAP and reduce that burden of regulation that is on farmers.

“But there is no doubt and if you talk to anyone in the farming community, over the past period of time, [inspections] have become more of a burden and it has also happened in a time where we haven’t seen the CAP budget actually increase and there has been downward pressure on it at EU level,” he said.

The Minister insisted that Ireland continues to advocate for a stronger budget, but not all member states are of the same position.

“We, as a country, have actually been one of the key proponents of improving and strengthening the CAP, but, obviously, as one of only 27 EU member states, we have seen either static or downward pressure on it.”

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