Re­port calls for ap­peals re­view panel

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS -

A LONG-AWAITED re­view of the leg­is­la­tion gov­ern­ing agri­cul­tural ap­peals has been pub­lished.

It fol­lows con­cerns over in­spec­tions raised fre­quently over the years by farm­ing bod­ies, with the spot­light on north Tip­per­ary last year.

The Agri­cul­ture Ap­peals Of­fice re­ceived 9,708 valid ap­peal cases since 2002. The 77page re­port said sev­eral re­view sub­mis­sions had re­marked on the “per­cep­tion” of the in­de­pen­dence of the Ap­peals Of­fice. It found that ev­i­dence would sug­gest the ap­peals of­fi­cers “do act in­de­pen­dently” of the Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment, how­ever, there were mech­a­nisms that could be put in place to pro­vide for “greater trans­parency”.

It found there is a need to pro­vide farm­ers with full de­tails of the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process from the time of ini­tial de­ci­sion and in­spec­tion, the re­view process, the Ap­peals Of­fice, the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man and the right to ini­ti­ate le­gal ac­tion. “Such in­for­ma­tion should be pro­vided as a hard and soft copy book­let so it can be avail­able to all claimants,” it stated.

The com­mit­tee rec­om­mended the in­tro­duc­tion of an in­de­pen­dent Agri­cul­ture Ap­peals Re­view Panel where re­views of the de­ci­sions of ap­peals of­fi­cers are sought would “un­der­pin pub­lic con­fi­dence”.

It rec­om­mended a re­view should only be sought for six months from the date of the de­ci­sion by the Ap­peals Of­fi­cer. A fee was rec­om­mended for tak­ing the ap­peal to the next stage of the in­de­pen­dent re­view panel. In ad­di­tion, it found the Depart­ment should broaden the pool from which ap­peals of­fi­cers are re­cruited and plans for train­ing for ap­peals of­fi­cers should be de­vel­oped fur­ther.

It found gen­eral dif­fi­cul­ties raised by the ap­peals of­fice should be sub­mit­ted to the Farm­ers’ Char­ter com­mit­tee.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed said the pro­gramme for gov­ern­ment had pro­vided for a re­view of the Agri­cul­ture Ap­peals Act 2001 to “en­sure the in­de­pen­dence and ef­fi­ciency of the of­fice in deal­ing with ap­peals from farm­ers”.

He said the rec­om­men­da­tions were cur­rently be­ing con­sid­ered.

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