By Debbie James
Dozens of farmers have disputed fines imposed for overdue TB tests in Wales – but over half have lost their appeals.
Since January 2015, farmers in Wales who fail to meet TB testing requirements face losing some of their Basic Payment (BPS) subsidy.
New figures from the Welsh Government show that since the introduction of this policy, 112 appeals have been lodged against financial penalties.
To date, 81 of these appeals have been completed and only 19 were successful. Sixty-two appeals failed and one of the appellants withdrew the action.
European legislation allows the government some discretion to remove cross-compliance penalties if overdue tests are due to exceptional circumstances.
Thirty of the 112 appeals are still being investigated.
The government declined to detail the circumstances of the appeals but it is known that at least eight were related to health and safety.
Under the regulations, all tests which are overdue by more than 31 days are subject to a five per cent penalty, with this failure categorised as a ‘severe breach’ of cross compliance.
The size of the penalty depends on the number of days a test is late – for tests overdue between one and 10 days there is a one per cent penalty and for 11 to 30 days three per cent is deducted from a farmer’s BPS.
Farmers who refuse a subsequent enforced test arranged by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) stand to lose all their Basic Payment.
NFU Cymru urged the government to be “proportionate’’ in its approach to imposing these financial penalties.
The union’s president, Stephen James, cautioned all cattle farmers in Wales to comply with the annual TB test but added: “Unforeseen, genuine circumstances do occasionally occur as to why the test cannot be completed on time.
“Therefore, any Basic Payment Scheme penalty system by the Welsh Government needs to be proportionate and fairly take into account these exceptional events.”