Penalty for nitrates breach revised following farmer appeal

A penalty which had been imposed on a farmer for breaching nitrates regulations by allegedly exceeding the permitted limit of nitrogen per hectare was reversed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine following an appeal from the farmer in question.

The case in question was one of a selection of examples of agricultural appeals cases dealt with last year, according to the Agricultural Appeals Office, in its annual report for 2019.

In the case, highlighted by the appeals office, it was noted that the department stated that the appellant had breached the Nitrates Regulations as they had exceeded the limit of 170kg/ha.

The Department of Agriculture‘s records reflected that the amount of nitrogen from livestock manure applied to lands (including that deposited by animals) on the appellant’s holding was 182kg/ha – which resulted in a penalty of 3%.

According to the appeals office, the department explained that the nitrates calculation included the animals on the holding for the calendar year and the land claimed on the annual application for the annual Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and other area-based schemes and that, while land claimed on a BPS application which is listed as “forestry eligible” is eligible for payment under the BPS scheme, it is not included in the nitrates calculation.

The appellant stated that they had two forestry contracts since 2011/2012 and that part of the plantation was not planted due to overhead wires and that there was a corridor which is eligible for grazing and as permanent pasture.

The appellant submitted that a department inspection occurred in 2019 and that it was concluded by the department that the corridor was eligible and that the maps would be updated.

The department stated that the land claimed on the appellant’s 2017 BPS application was 10.52ha and that this was not sufficient to cover all of the 12.55 entitlements; they concluded at the hearing that there were no maps on the file to verify the area not planted as referred to by the appellant.

As a result of further investigations by the appeals officer, the department concluded that it was obvious from the ortho photography and the inspection result that there was access to these areas and that the land had been grazed and was eligible.

The original department decision was revised by the department in favour of the appellant and after assignment to an appeals officer, the Agricultural Appeals Office concluded.