Proposals for an improved Nitrate related farm inspection regime

Source: An Overview of Ireland’s Fifth Nitrates Action Programme

On average, approximately 3,400 Nitrates related inspections are undertaken on farms across Ireland each year by local authority and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) personnel.

The level of compliance with the requirements of the GAP regulations varies from county to county but it is generally considered to be low, relative to compliance with other national legislation.

Submissions received during three consultation stages on Nitrates Action Programme, and discussions with local authority personnel suggests that reform of the overall enforcement of the GAP regulations is required to:
– Further improve compliance levels,
– Ensure local authorities are adequately resourced,
– Prioritise targeting of high-risk areas.

Not expected that there will be significant changes to the enforcement powers of authorised personnel within the GAP regulations

National local authority agricultural inspection programme will be put in place by local authorities and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that includes:
a) undertaking a review of the local authority inspection programme to be completed every four years.
b) developing, in consultation with other appropriate bodies, a National Agricultural Inspection Programme to include recommending, and potentially, directing local authorities on where to prioritise inspections using a risk-based approach taking water quality data and other environmental risk factors into consideration.
c) local authorities keeping appropriate records and submitting these to the EPA annually.
d) The EPA, local authorities and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine identifying the necessary training needs for all personnel carrying out farm Inspections.

In 2022, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will issue a Circular to the EPA and local authorities providing more detail on the National Agricultural Inspection Programme.

A key focus of the Programme will be ensuring that follow up-inspections of non-compliant farms are undertaken, enforcement notices are issued and cases are prosecuted where necessary.

Steps will also be taken to ensure that all non-compliant farms are cross-reported to DAFM which will result in penalties.

Separately, an assessment of resources within the water environment functional area of local authorities, and specifically the agricultural inspection programme is ongoing by the County and City Management Association and will be included as a measure under the 3rd Cycle River Basin Management Plan.

These activities will build on work being undertaken by the EPA, local authorities and other members of the Network for Ireland’s Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (NIECE).

In addition DAFM has committed to increasing their nitrates derogation inspection programme from 5% of all derogation farms to 10% of all derogation farms on an annual basis. This is to be done using a risk based approach and additional risk category/categories will be added to ensure targeting in the most at risk areas.

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