Policing of farmers in European Union states to ensure they obey complex rules under the €58bn Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget costs €4bn a year.
European Parliament member for Ireland South, Deirdre Clune, described this spending as a waste of taxpayer money.
“With better regulation and simplified monitoring, we could save taxpayers millions of euro, save time and preserve farmers nerves,” she said.
Ms Clune said the huge administrative burden on farmers is acknowledged and there is a political unanimity in the European Parliament of the need to simplify the monitoring process.
“Promoting performance-based controls is also very important,” said Ms Clune. “On the basis of a thorough analysis, we should identify the best- and the worst-performing member states, regions, sectors and adapt the level of controls accordingly.”
Copa Cogeca, the umbrella body for European farmers and co-operatives, warned, earlier this year, that excessive red-tape and bureaucracy, under the CAP, had been identified as major concerns stifling innovation and investments.
“A reduction in red-tape would free up time and resources to boost investment, growth and jobs. Simplification should not change the political compromise, nor endanger the objectives of the CAP,” it said.
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said the EU was excessive in the way it dealt with small farmers, adding that penalties were not fair.
Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture in Dublin last month, he said inspections were contentious, but hugely important. “As part of the simplification of the Common Agricultural Policy, I am looking at this area very carefully to see what we can do, especially for smaller producers and small farmers,” he said,
Mr Hogan said that he agreed there was too much bureaucracy attached to the CAP. But the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament had 8,000 amendments during the 2013 discussions.
The inspection regime has become a bone of contention here between the Department of Agriculture and the farming organisations.
Irish Farmers’ Association president Eddie Downey said earlier this year that the stress and fear associated with farm inspections, particularly unannounced ones, had negatively impacted on farmer welfare.
He said the inspection process needed to be simplified and to be more farmer-friendly. “Currently, farm inspections are extremely complex and bureaucratic, with a full inspection similar to a forensic examination, involving hundreds of questions, many of which are incomprehensible,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture and the farm organisations have recently negotiated a new Farmers’ Charter, which will remain in place until 2020.
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