Criticism has been directed towards the new National Fertiliser Database in Ireland due to the requirement for farmers to register online. The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) has expressed concerns about the online registration process, stating that it adds unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy. John Joe Fitzgerald, the vice-president of the association, highlighted the surprise and frustration felt by many farmers upon receiving letters about the database. He emphasized that the short timeline for registration and the online-only requirement are particularly problematic for farmers who are not technologically proficient. Fitzgerald criticized Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and his department for not offering alternative registration options.
Farmers who are not IT-savvy will now have to rely on their farm advisors, who are already overwhelmed with the complicated ACRES scheme, to assist them with online registration. This additional burden will come at a cost to the farmers. Fitzgerald expressed disappointment that the minister and his department did not take into account the challenges faced by farmers, especially during a time when delayed payments are affecting their cash flow. He emphasized the need for different registration options to be made available.
While acknowledging the necessity of a National Fertiliser Database to implement the eco-scheme under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), Fitzgerald stated that the registration process should not have been rushed or made overly complex. He called for an immediate review of the online registration requirement and the September 1 deadline. After this date, it will be illegal to purchase or sell fertiliser and lime without being registered on the database. Fitzgerald insisted that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine should consider implementing a phone-in option for registration or providing farmers with hard copies of the registration form.
Fitzgerald criticized the department for not including these alternatives in the initial letter, suggesting that they were trying to avoid additional administrative work. He called on Minister McConalogue and the department to reassess their approach to engaging with farmers, emphasizing the importance of accommodating those who are not technologically proficient. Fitzgerald argued that the department should prioritize the needs of the farming community rather than focusing solely on reducing administrative burdens.
In conclusion, the INHFA vice-president urged Minister McConalogue and the department to review the online registration requirement and provide alternative options for farmers. He emphasized the importance of considering the needs of farmers who are not IT-savvy and called for a more farmer-centric approach to be adopted.