Calls for rational approach

DUP MLA Willaim Irwin
DUP MLA Willaim Irwin

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Chairman of the Agriculture Committee William Irwin MLA has called for fairness from DARD officials on the issue of cross compliance guidelines.

Speaking after Tuesday’s Agriculture Committee meeting in Stormont, Mr Irwin said he had put forward a robust case for fairness in the handling of cross compliance issues and discussed a number of areas such as hedge cutting, soil erosion and single ear tags.

He said: “This was a very useful exchange with DARD officials at the Committee and I felt it was important to highlight a number of areas where I feel a much fairer approach should be adopted by DARD.

“An issue of concern is hedge cutting with current rules banning cutting from 1st March to 31st August except for roadside hedges. This was presenting a problem for those farmers wishing to plant autumn cereals or wanting to reseed.

“This was an issue we raised within the committee some months ago and I welcome the proposed changes to allow hedge cutting to take place from 15th August in these specific circumstances. Farmers will however have to apply to the Department to undertake this work.”

Commenting on the issue of single ear tags Mr Irwin stated: “The issue of single tags has been something that I have lobbied on for some time and I have taken many calls from farmers concerned at the department’s new cross compliance rules.

“I do accept that the department did introduce a cross compliance matrix however this still did not address the main issue. The department currently allows 10% threshold of missing single tags up to a maximum of 20 tags, which in effect means that a herd of 200 animals has a 10% threshold. However in a larger herd, irrespective of size, farmers are still only allowed a maximum of 20 missing tags which presents a huge issue.

“I impressed on officials the need to address this unfairness and I feel it is a matter which needs urgent attention, simply based on the logistics and the fact the threshold does not move based on larger herds.”