Dáil Éireann - Volume 507 - 01 July, 1999
Written Answers. - On-farm Inspections.
Mr. Ferris Mr. Ferris
46. Mr. Ferris asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the notice farmers should be given by his Department with reference to on-farm income inspections for cattle, sheep and REP schemes; the plans, if any, he has to extend the notice in view of the labour shortages in rural areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16932/99]
Mr. Walsh Mr. Walsh
Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): On-farm inspections form an integral part of the administration of the schemes of direct payments to farmers. Such checks are to be made in such a way as to ensure effective verification of compliance with the terms under which the payments are granted.
In so far as the headage and premium schemes are concerned, EU regulations governing the schemes require that on-farm checks must be made in a minimum of 10 per cent of applications. Cases to be so checked are to be selected on the basis of computerised risk analysis. At least 50 per cent of the checks are to be made inside the relevant retention period. The regulation also provides that, in general, on-farm checks shall be unannounced and cover all of the agricultural parcels and animals submitted on an application. However, an advance notification of inspection may be given in certain circumstances provided such advance notice does not exceed 48 hours.
In view of the fact that bovine animals are individually identified by eartags my Department normally gives a 48 hour advance notification of cattle inspections. In the case of the sheep inspections, where no individual identification of animals is in place, advance notification is given only in cases involving mountain or commonage land where it would be unrealistic to expect sheep to be gathered for inspection at short notice.
I should point out that in circumstances where the applicant is unable to be present at an on-farm inspection it is open to him or her to be represented at the inspection by an agent. This situation is most likely to arise in the case of part-time farmers who are engaged in off-farm employment.
Since the requirements regarding notification of inspections are laid down in EU regulations my Department has no discretion in the approach to be taken. I am satisfied, however, that the current approach is reasonable particularly in view of the fact that my Department allows the  maximum 48 hour notification in the case of cattle inspections.
In relation to the REP scheme, there is no specific provision in EU regulations in relation to the notice to be given of inspections. Depending on circumstances, farmers are given up to three days notice of such inspections. However, the REPS agreement between my Department and each farmer provides that inspections may be carried out without prior notice. Under this provision unannounced inspections are carried out where they are deemed necessary. I consider these arrangements to be working satisfactorily.
Dáil Éireann 507 Written Answers. On-farm Inspections.