DUP MEP Diane Dodds has stressed the need to minimise the impact of inspections on farm businesses across Northern Ireland.
Her remarks came as part of a keynote address at a recent UFU branch meeting held in Dungannon, which also referenced beef and milk prices and various aspects surrounding the new CAP from a European standpoint.
Commenting, Mrs Dodds said: “As an MEP, I have always been delighted to speak to farmers groups right across Northern Ireland.
“Local meetings are a great opportunity to learn at first hand of the challenges facing farm businesses in our Province. In the European Parliament, it is quite easy to find yourself in the Brussels bubble, however to be effective in fighting to meet the needs of our industry, you need to know what farmers want from Europe and indeed from the UK institutions,” she added.
“During the course of this meeting, several farmers raised the issue of inspections carried out by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) - and specifically the manner in which farmers have been treated. Farmers do feel that because they receive a Single Farm Payment they are unfairly targeted by inspectors, and this is a perception that needs to be explored. In respect of inspections, there was a widespread desire among those in attendance to have a single inspection authority. This would give farmers better clarity on regulations and specifications to follow, and would also mean that they are not constantly looking over their shoulder for the next inspection. Inspections take up time which farmers don’t have, so it absolutely right that whatever action can be taken to minimise the impact should be explored.
“Beef price and milk price were the hottest topic of the night, and especially the lattter. With milk price currently facing a downward trend, I discussed topics like intervention prices and export refunds. For many weeks now, I have been exerting pressure on the European Commission to use such available tools before the existence of farm businesses come under threat. This is very important.
“Farmers also require clarity from DARD on the implementation of the Common Agriculture Policy, around issues including the active farmer definition, dual claims and young farmer schemes. The other major unknown within the industry at present is the lack of clarity from landowners in relation to setting land for the upcoming season,” added Mrs Dodds.