Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA and his colleague Diane Dodds MEP have sought a meeting with top DAERA officials to discuss the issue of cross compliance and the interpretation of penalties.
Mr Irwin said that it was important to stress that whilst cross compliance was an essential element and biosecurity was vital, there are instances whereby more “common sense” approaches could be taken which would minimise impacts on farmers in certain circumstances.
He said: “Both Diane and I have had detailed conversations on this issue and many farmers have made contact with us to express concerns over the severity of cross compliance breach fines on their farm businesses and what that fine actually means for them in reality.
“I have corresponded with Departmental officials widely on this matter and have secured some initial improvements in terms of wording of warnings issued by the Department and clarity for farmers on the matter of late testing.
“Those initial steps are welcome, however both Diane and I remain of the view that more work could be done to lessen impacts on farmers in certain circumstances. I will be raising the issue of the interpretation by the Department of negligent and intentional breaches. I will be asking what scope exists, through the assessment of the circumstances in individual cases, for a more reflective and common sense approach by investigating staff.”