NORTHERN IRISH farmers are to have their potential cross-compliance penalties reduced this year.

Farmers claiming through area-based schemes are obliged to comply with Statutory Management Requirements covering the environment, climate change, public health, animal health and plant health and animal welfare – and where they do not meet these requirements, a cross-compliance penalty can be applied which reduces the level of funding they receive.

This is calculated by two different penalty matrices depending on whether a non-compliance is found to be either intentional or negligent.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots this week announced changes to these matrices: “As Minister for Agriculture and the Environment I know that by far the vast majority of farmers in Northern Ireland are good stewards of the land and farm to very high standards; protecting our environment; protecting the health and welfare of animals; and ultimately protecting human health.

“Cross-compliance standards help to ensure that every farmer follows the same good farming practices. That means that people living here can be confident in the quality of our locally produced food products.

“Now that we have left the European Union, I have asked my department to look at how cross-compliance can be made to work better, helping farmers to improve where needed while still protecting our environment and our food standards,” he said.

“While that work is taking place, I have decided to reduce some of the penalties that farmers receive when they do not comply with the cross-compliance standards. These changes will keep Northern Ireland in line with other administrations within the United Kingdom.”

While some of the penalties are lower, NI farmers can still receive a penalty of up to 100% of funding for the most serious cases.

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