Ulster Farmer’s Union president, Ian Marshall, says the CAP simplification package announced by the EU farm commissioner, Phil Hogan, is a positive step forward and something the UFU has been seeking for some time.
But he says the European Commission must go further to make sure all farmers gain and see a real practical difference from plans to cut the red tape burden.
“While the package contains many specific proposals, the UFU is particularly supportive of his plan to change the administrative penalty system for direct support,” he said. “This will be a much more satisfactory situation where honest mistakes are made,” said Mr Marshall.
Another major concern for farmers has been the proportionality of administrative penalties. “We are encouraged the commissioner has asked his officials to look at how the penalty system for direct support can be simplified. This is about moving to penalty levels that reflect the seriousness or otherwise of the breach of the rules,” said Mr Marshall. He added that he also welcomed confirmation that inspection rates will be reduced for member states from five to one per cent, if they have a sound compliance record with the Commission and an up-to-date LPIS system.
The UFU says however that arable farmers will be disappointed progress has not been made on greening, with no proposals due until 2016.
Meanwhile, Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said the measures outlined this week by Commissioner Hogan are part of the on-going and much-needed drive to simplify the CAP.
“The Commissioner’s commitment to identify and introduce further simplification measures in the future, including in relation to penalties and greening is welcome as is the fact that re-opening the main regulations underpinning the CAP has not been ruled out - this would allow for more fundamental changes to be made.
“Cutting unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy out of the system is good not just for farmers but also for national and regional governments due to the reduced CAP implementation costs. It will now be up to DARD to make the most of the modifications and flexibility announced for the benefit of both the industry and taxpayer,” he added.