Farmers, farm labourers, farm relief service workers and others involved directly or indirectly in crop and animal production have been classed as essential workers by the Government.

These workers will be permitted to travel to and from the workplace during the period of travel restrictions until 12 April.

The Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 outlines a series of major powers. Where gardaí suspect these regulations are not being adhered to, they can direct people to desist and can, if it is deemed necessary, make arrests. Prosecution could result in a maximum sentence of six months imprisonment and/or a fine of €2,500.

Those who have been classified as essential services may be exempted from any restrictive measures. Essential workers will be asked to carry work identification or ID and a letter from their employer.

IFA advice

On Sunday, the IFA said it was advised by the Department of Agriculture that farmers carry a form of ID with them at all times during the COVID-19 restrictions. A driving licence and/or IFA membership card will suffice.

If farmers have employees, the advice is to provide them with a letter. The IFA has developed a template which can be downloaded from here.

Solicitor's advice

Aisling Meehan, agricultural soclitor.

Although there is no specific published template for this identification, agricultural solicitor Aisling Meehan advises that farmers should themselves carry photo identification such as driving license, passport or public services card, together with some official correspondence from the Department of Agriculture.

“Farmers, particularly those travelling to outfarms beyond the 2km radius of their homes, need something that proves that they are farmers, and that the travel falls outside of the restrictions.

“I would suggest that farmers carry a letter from the Department of Agriculture with their herd number on it as well as photo ID. A copy of your basic payment scheme (BPS) application will also show maps of the land that you are farming and the outside parcels."

Go to Work letter

The Limerick Chamber of Commerce issued a templated Go to Work letter that those in essential services can personalise and give to their staff members.

To whom it may concern,

This letter is to confirm that [insert employee name] is employed by [farm/company name] and is required to attend work at [insert address].

In their role, they are essential to the operations of the business. This is not work that they can do from home and, without their presence, the farm would face potentially serious issues, both now and with regards to our ability to operate in the future.

Please be assured that the farm/company’s operation of these minimal activities is consistent with the recent measures announced by the Government as essential services (farming). We will continue to monitor and carefully adhere to all Government guidance and we will continue to ensure the health and safety of our employees while in the workplace to the maximum extent possible.

In light of the recent Government measures instructing people to stay in their homes and only travel if essential, we have provided the employee with a copy of this letter so that they may provide it to relevant authorities, if asked.

Yours sincerely,

[Title / herd number]

[Phone number]

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