THE IRISH Cattle and Sheep Farmers‘ Association says proposed cross-compliance penalties are unacceptable, unfair and the system must be rebalanced towards farmers.

Under the proposal, penalties will be points-based, where forgetting to sign a cattle passport, for instance, would cost three points.

Only 11 points would be required before a farm was docked 1% of its entire single farm payment.

The penalty would increase to 3% after 30 points and 5% after 50. “The principle of penalty points doesn’t bother us at all, but they must be reasonable.”

ICSA president Malcolm Thompson said: “What is proposed is a Draconian system that will lead to severe penalties for even the most trivial of clerical errors, such as failure to sign an animal passport.”

A spokesman for the Irish government‘s Department of Agriculture said no final decisions had yet been taken.

“We want a system that is fair but complies with our obligations to EU auditors.”

ICSA is proposing that farmers who regularly meet 95% of various administrative targets, like cattle tagging and updating herd registers, should receive credits that could be used to offset against penalty points.

In the UK, there are no plans for a points-based system of penalties.

Andrew Clark, head of policy services at the NFU, said Brussels already allowed some flexibility by stating that bodies monitoring compliance, like the Rural Payments Agency, need not apply sanctions unless there was a significant infringement of the rules.

A DEFRA spokesman said: “For some very minor or technical breaches, farmers will not be penalised in the first instance.”