The new Farmers' Charter of Rights must deliver across all the key areas affecting direct payments and services to farmers, Irish Farmers' Association(IFA) Connacht regional chair Brendan Golden said.

This comes following a meeting of the charter of rights in Portlaoise on Friday, which was attended by Golden, IFA rural development chair John Curran and IFA livestock chair Declan Hanrahan.

Progress, Golden said, has been made on a number of issues over the last number of months.

"Farm payments will return to their traditional payment schedule for 2024, with ANC reverting to the third week of September. [The] IFA had been strongly opposed to the later payment dates imposed by the Department last year," Golden added.


However, Golden said, the Department must assess and review the capabilities of its IT infrastructure prior to scheme roll-out, to avoid subsequent payment or processing delays. Provisions for an alternative payment are needed where deadlines are not met, he said.

“There have also been improvements around inspection notifications, as well as retaining the written preliminary inspection report issued on the day of the inspection itself, rather than in the subsequent days as originally proposed by the Department,” he said.

Inspections in the main will be announced in the new charter, with inspectors required to provide a written preliminary report before leaving the farm.

Golden said these are two key components of the inspection system for farmers.

Steps in right direction

While these are steps in the right direction, Golden said the Department still has work to do on a number of outstanding issues in order to ensure greater fairness and equity for farmers.

“We cannot have a situation where the Department revise[s] or change[s] the terms and conditions following the opening of a scheme, which leaves applicants negatively impacted by the change. This is a basic principle that must be included in the charter.

"Engagement with farm organisations prior to any amendments or revisions is the minimum commitment required in the charter,” he said.

Other areas raised for inclusion in the charter at Friday's meeting included timeframes for Department responses to review and appeal requests; recognition of pregnancy status of cows at inspection; and monitoring commitments in the new charter where issues raised will be resolved in a more timely manner.

Golden said that the charter, when finalised, must have a meaningful and positive impact for farmers across the delivery of direct payments, farm schemes and Department services.

“It is vital to secure a new charter that is fit for purpose and serves farmers well in a practical and real way over the next number of years in their interaction with the Department of Agriculture and their participation in the schemes which are critical components of farmers’ incomes,” he concluded.