The average penalty of €800 levied on over 1,500 farmers in 2013 for breaching the nitrates 170kg limit was described by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association yesterday as excessive and unacceptable.
John Comer, president, called for a complete reform of the system so that such penalties can be eliminated altogether.
He said the nitrates penalties provide a very clear example of how the inspection system actually works against the possibility of farmers even attempting to rectify what is usually just the slightest breach of the limits.
The penalties arise because the system adopted by the department does not allow the farmer to take corrective action after the event and despite the fact that many farmers will not know they have breached the limit until the following year.
At that stage the department will not allow the farmer to take corrective action and a penalty is imposed, he said.
Mr Comer said a very simple measure to address this problem would be to allow the farmer to export the required amount of slurry the following year to bring the nitrates level below 170kg .
He suggested that farmers in excess of the 170kg limit be allowed spread a quantity of slurry from their storage tanks onto another landowner’s land — with their permission.
And then the following year the offending farmer would come back under the limit and €1m in penalties would be eliminated without any fuss or bother.
Mr Comer said farmers have been listening to politicians talking about simplification of the nitrates regime for many years but most would testify that the system is getting more complicated by the day.
He said Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney must start eliminating unnecessary penalties on farmers.
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