UFU and DAERA settle penalty appeals dispute
The Ulster Farmers Union and the Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture have settled a second judicial review out of court.

The UFU and DAERA have reached agreement on the judicial review of changes to the agricultural appeal process in Northern Ireland, the organisations announced this Friday.

The dispute centred on DAERA's decision in April to remove the second independent panel stage in the area-based review process of CAP decisions. The new system was to involve a one-stage internal review by DAERA only.

Before the judicial review initiated by the UFU against the decision came before the High Court last month, the two sides reached a settlement and the court has now approved their agreement.

Conditions

DAERA has agreed to retain the independent panel for a second stage of appeals subject to three primary conditions:

  • A charge of £200 will apply to those seeking a second-stage review before the panel. DAERA will review this fee within 18 months.
  • Farmers can introduce new evidence at second stage only, if exceptional circumstances or force majeure are established.
  • The final decision on any individual case will remain with DAERA.
  • "Both UFU and DAERA have welcomed the positive engagement which has led to the resolution of the case," the organisations said in a joint statement. "DAERA will move quickly to engage with stakeholders to confirm acceptance of the revised approach and, subject to the outcome of this process, apply it to all review applications received from April 2018."

    This is a separate case to the action settled last month after DAERA agreed to reverse intentional cross-compliance penalties imposed on its former president Ian Marshall. A second-stage independent panel had recommended in favour of Marshall that the breach be changed from intentional to negligent.

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    'Strong demand' for milk lorry and feed delivery haulage course
    17 October was the deadline for applications for the Dairygold/ CETB Driver Training Programme.

    Dairygold has reported strong demand for the Dairygold/ CETB Driver Training Programme, which aims to address the shortage of qualified drivers across the haulage sector in Ireland.

    Applications are currently being processed and Dairygold is confident that it will fill the maximum allocation of 20 places for the first professional driver training programme.

    The course is due to commence at the end of November and will involve a 15-week training programme, which will be based in Mallow.

    “Successful applicants will be allocated to Dairygold’s hauliers across all transport lanes, eg milk collection and feed deliveries.

    “The demand and interest in the driver training programme was strong and very positive. A decision on further training programmes will be made in due course,” a spokesperson for Dairygold told the Irish Farmers Journal.

    As the dairy industry continues to expand, there is an ever-growing need for skilled and qualified drivers to support the logistics of milk collection and feed delivery, Billy Cronin, head of supply chain at Dairygold, said when the course was announced a number of weeks ago.

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    New haulage course for milk lorry and feed delivery drivers

    Over 400 farmers travel to fourth tyre recycling centre
    The fourth tyre recycling centre was at Gortdrum Mines in Monard, Co Tipperary, on Saturday.

    A total of 850 tonnes of tyres were collected from 400 farmers in Tipperary on Saturday. The average volume collected at each of the four bring centres now stands at 1,000t.

    While this is the final planned disposal day with the Irish Farm Films Producers Group (IFFPG), farmers have called for further "bring centres".

    The IFA is calling for a national scheme to be rolled out so that there is one recycling point opened in each county.

    IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney said the association has sought a meeting with Minister for State at the Department of Environment Seán Canney.

    “We look forward to working with him and his officials to build on the good work so far and ensure we all play our part in keeping the countryside clean,” Cooney said.

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    Irish farms among the most valuable in the EU
    A combination of high land prices and low debt makes the net value of Irish farms among the highest in Europe.

    The average Irish farm has a net value of just under €1m, the fourth highest among the 28 EU member states, a comparison of 2015 farm accounting data by the European Commission has found.

    UK farms are the most valuable, with a net worth of €1.8m on average, followed by the Netherlands at €1.6m and farms in Denmark at just over €1m.

    By contrast, the average Romanian farm is worth just €33,700, the lowest net worth in the EU.

    Irish farms hold on average €1m worth of assets, higher than the EU average of €338,600, but only in sixth position in the EU league. Nearly 90% of those assets are land, with only UK farms locking more of their value into farmland.

    Meanwhile Irish farms have very low debt levels, far smaller than the EU average of €54,500. Recent CSO figures show that most farms don't have any debt, and the 35% who do owe an average of €60,000 only. Moreover, Irish farmers have secured long-term loans in much larger proportions than their counterparts in most other EU countries, who are more exposed to the need of constantly refinancing short-term loans.

    High solvency

    As a result, Irish farms have the lowest liabilities-to-assets ratio, under 3%, described by the Commission as a sign of high solvency. "In the case of Ireland, the low liabilities-to-assets ratio mainly reflects relatively high asset values when compared to low liabilities," analysts wrote.

    The high value of Irish farms is not reflected in their income ranking. The average Irish farm's net income was higher than the EU average but ranked in 11th position only, far behind the Dutch leaders.

    Irish farmers were also the third most reliant on direct payments for their income, with only Greek and Finnish farmers receiving a larger proportion of their income from the BPS system.

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