Simon Coveney: No need to link EU grants to farm safety rules

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney has said there is no need to link EU farming grants to safety levels as the changes are already taking place within Ireland.

The Fine Gael cabinet member was speaking after his party colleague and EU agriculture commissioner, Phil Hogan, claimed farmers could see the financial aid cut if they do not meet certain standards.

Speaking before a meeting today with the Irish Far-mers’ Association, Mr Hogan said the move may be needed to tackle ongoing risks on Irish farms.

Noting the €1.2bn given to Irish farms by Brussels, the former environment minister said the grants may need to be cut as an incentive to improve safety levels.

“Because of the increase in serious farm accidents, we need to review all strategies. In the same way as we expect farmers to comply with environmental directives, and rules on animal welfare, we also expect that they will comply with safety rules.

“I will be asking member states to look at how this objective can be best achieved. I am prepared to look at farm payments in this regard,” he said.

There were 30 deaths on Irish farms last year — the worst rate in 20 years.

However, a spokesperson for Mr Coveney said while he was not disagreeing with Mr Hogan’s approach, changes may not be needed as safety improvements are already imposed through financial measures within Ireland.

The spokesperson said Mr Coveney set up a €12m fund last year allowing farmers to seek help for the purchase of safer equipment.

To date, 4,000 farmers have sought assistance, arguing it is a “much more productive and practical way” to approach the issue.

The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association had earlier claimed Mr Hogan’s suggestion “doesn’t make sense” .

The IFA, which invited Mr Hogan to its 60th anniversary celebrations today, said “awareness and education”are the best way to prevent farm accidents.


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