Denis Naughten TD has questioned the Minister for Agriculture in the Dáil as to the reason for the continuation of on-farm inspections during the level 5 lockdown.
Commenting on the issue Denis Naughten said: “I have been contacted by many farmers who cannot see the justification for these inspections at a time when there are such concerns over the level of Covid-19 infection across the country.
“Some farmers are in high risk categories and feel under pressure to proceed with inspections or assist inspectors due to the impact of a negative report on potential penalties and as a result their income.”
Responding to the question Minister McConalogue stated: “Conducting on-farm inspections is deemed essential work.”
He went on to point out that all “inspections are carried out in line with HSE guidelines and Government requirements concerning Covid”.
In his response the Minister did state “the farmer is afforded an opportunity to defer the inspection for up to three weeks should there be Covid related concerns or issues”.
Editor’s Note: Dáil reply attached:
Thursday, 21 January 2021
Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
- To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the reason departmental inspectors are still performing on-farm inspections during the level 5 restrictions, given the potential risk of spreading Covid-19 when it is not deemed essential work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2990/21]
Charlie McConalogue (Donegal, Fianna Fail)
My Department is continuing to support the farming community in these difficult times, in particular, by ensuring that scheme payments can continue to issue to farmer clients. Conducting on-farm inspections is deemed essential work. Officials in my Department and I are very conscious of the challenges and concerns for all stakeholders posed by the COVID-19 situation. At all times, our priority is to safeguard the health and safety of farm families, our staff and the wider community, while still facilitating scheme payments. Where possible, inspections are being done remotely, thereby avoiding the need for on-farm visits but in certain situations, a farm visit is required in order to complete the pre-payment checks and controls necessary to make vital payments to these farmers.
Inspections are carried out in line with HSE guidelines and Government requirements concerning COVID. All inspections are notified in advance and the farmer is afforded an opportunity to defer the inspection for up to three weeks should there be COVID related concerns or issues. In addition, inspectors are required to adhere to an inspection protocol which gives clear guidance to inspectors on procedures to be followed during the inspection. We cannot defer inspections indefinitely as this would impact payments to scheme participants.