With the Single Farm Payment (SFP) applications been lodged for the May 15th deadline, every farmer is aware of the possibility of a farm inspection been carried out. It is important to be prepared in the event an inspection is carried out on your farm. Farm inspections are a requirement under EU regulations and farm scheme terms and conditions.
The first thing you should make enquiries about if you are given notice that an inspection is been carried out is what type of inspection is taking place. The two most common types of inspections are:
- Eligibility Inspection Farm inspections are carried out to verify that you meet scheme eligibility requirements. This includes land eligibility inspections, which check that areas declared correspond to the area you farm and to ensure no overlapping or duplicate claims.
- Cross Compliance Inspection Cross compliance farm inspections check that land is kept in Good Agricultural and Environment Conditions and that Statutory Management Requirements such as cattle and sheep IDs, nitrates, animal welfare, feed and food hygiene, etc. are adhered to.
Notice is required to be given in respect of certain types of inspections. You are normally given 14 days notice for an eligibility inspection but may only receive up to 48 Hours for certain Cross Compliance inspections such as cattle registration. No notice is required in respect of Animal Welfare checks or compliance with the GLAS scheme.
At the start of the inspection, the inspector should introduce themselves, produce their I.D. and state the purpose of the visit. They should also explain the inspection procedure. The inspecting officer will provide an inspection notice information to explain the nature of the inspections. Once the inspection is over the inspector will fill out an Inspection Report Form. The farmer though not obliged to, will be given the opportunity to sign the report and will also be given the opportunity to comment on the preliminary inspection report. Any comments will be noted in the report. If the farmer chooses to sign this report it doesn’t prejudice his position in respect of any penalties that may arise.
If you are not satisfied with how the inspection was carried out, it is possible to make a complaint by writing directly to the Department of Agriculture Quality Service Unit. It is important to note you can also review of or to appeal a decision. Initially an internal review is carried out within the payment section and if this does not resolve the situation, it can be appealed further to the Agriculture Appeals Office (AAO) which is an independent statutory agency. This appeal must be lodged within three months. At the end of the appeals process you can seek the assistance of the Office of the Ombudsman if you are not satisfied with the process.
If an inspection is been carried out, it is advisable
- Be available to co-operate with your inspector.
- Be respectful toward the inspector
- Have any relevant documents at hand to supply the inspector with if these are requested.
- Implement any guidelines that need to be changed if non-compliance occurs.
The Charter of Farmers Rights sets out a range of principles that should apply during farm inspections and the full list is available in the Charter of Farmers Rights 2015-2020 which is available on the Department of Agriculture website.
Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, Dublin and Cork, and author of ‘Farming and the Law’.
Disclaimer: While every care is taken to ensure accuracy of information contained in this article, solicitor Karen Walsh does not accept responsibility for errors or omissions howsoever arising, and you should seek legal advice in relation to your particular circumstances at the earliest possible time.