Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman and Stormont DAERA Committee member William Irwin MLA has raised concerns over cross compliance fines levied on farmers for late testing of herds for TB.
Mr Irwin said farmers he had spoken to were completely unware of the severity of the penalties for a late test and said he would continue to raise the matter with officials.
He stated: “I have been contacted by a number of farmers who have been hit with substantial fines for late TB testing and it has caused them great alarm and indeed great financial worry, as those farmers were totally unaware of the possibility of severe fines.
“The breaches referred to have been from previous years and have only now come to light for farmers in this position. Indeed in these cases, the farmers have repeatedly tested as per protocol, however for various genuine reasons, a late test has been unavoidable and now they are facing significant fines for a cross-compliance breach.”
He added: “This has been a source of concern for many farmers in terms of cross compliance and Europe seems to insist on a sledge hammer approach to crack a nut. By this I mean that a common sense approach is lacking in the ability to ensure that testing takes place when required but with an all important element of flexibility which would allow genuine circumstances for a late test to be considered - without the imposition of a fine of many thousands of pounds.”
He concluded: “It is also important to note that this type of situation would not arise were it made much clearer to farmers the level of fine that could be applied as a result of late testing. In the recent past I have successfully lobbied agriculture departmental officials on taking less draconian measures against farmers on cross-compliance issues and perhaps this is another area where some minor adjustment could be made that would make farmers more aware of the potential for fines as a result of late testing.”