Satellite inspection appeals must be dealt with quicker

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Resolving issues created by a new wave of satellite inspections is taking far too long, according to East Galway T.D. Paul Connaughton.

‘I have been contacted by many farmers in recent months whose lives – and farm payments – have been thrown into chaos because of a new set of satellite inspections which have shown up anomalies and which are taking months to rectify.

‘It’s now mid-February and many farmers have not yet had decisions on the inspections which they were notified of in November and December. In one case a farmer in the Loughrea region was heavily penalised as a result of the new inspection, when a human eye can clearly discern that the vegetation shown on the satellite is tree canopy.

‘There is a danger that issues arising from these satellite inspections will ensure that farmers are reluctant to sow tree species such as beech or horse chestnut in case they are penalised in years to come in relation to tree canopy.

‘The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to greatly speed up the time taken to resolve these appeals.  I am in constant contact with officials from the Department of Agriculture in relation to such satellite issues.  I believe that farmers should appeal these issues, no matter how small the monetary payment involved, when they believe that the deductions are unjust. Many farmers shy away from making an appeal in the mistaken belief that the appeals process will be too cumbersome.

‘Apart from being in constant contact with Department officials, this is also something that I will be taking up with Minister Simon Coveney this week in an effort to ensure that all necessary resources are put in place to have these appeals determined as quickly as possible.

‘Farmers shouldn’t be left out of pocket because of the changes wrought by these satellite inspections. If a satellite cannot discern the difference between tree canopy and scrub, then the changes suggested should be investigated before a blanket penalty is imposed.

‘Weather woes and low prices for stock are enough for farmers to contend with without having to wait for months for a penalty wrongly imposed to be lifted.’