50pc of farmers fail Nitrates test

Caitriona Murphy

Half of all farms selected for local authority nitrates inspections last year were found to be in breach of the rules, figures obtained by the Farming Independent reveal.

Department of Agriculture inspectors carried out more than 4,900 Nitrates Directive inspections at the behest of local authorities between 2010 and 2012.

Some 1,669 farms were inspected for breaches of the Nitrates Directive last year, prompted by officials in the local county council.

Of the 1,669 farms inspected, 827 or 49.5pc were found to have breached the rules and 690 farms (41.3pc) incurred a financial sanction.

The vast majority (1,345) of farms selected for nitrates inspections by local authorities last year were chosen based on risk selection, while the remainder (324) were chosen at random.

And it appears some county councils pursue nitrates issues more fervently than others.

Cork topped the list, with 297 local authority-sanctioned nitrates inspections last year, followed by Tipperary, where 196 farms were inspected for nitrates issues. In Cork, 110 farmers, or 37pc, of those inspected were issued with a financial penalty.

The penalty rate was more severe in Co Tipperary, where 124 farmers, or 63pc, of those inspected were fined for nitrates breaches.

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In Kerry, 129 farms were inspected and 43 farmers (33pc) were fined.

Taking fourth spot last year, Limerick Co Council instigated 120 farm nitrates inspections and 45 farmers or 37.5pc of those inspected were fined.

For its size, Co Limerick appears to have a remarkably high level of nitrates inspections prompted by the local council, according to Department statistics seen by the Farming Independent.

Between 110 and 120 farmers in the county were selected for nitrates inspections by the county council every year from 2010 to 2012.

In contrast, Roscommon, a similar sized county, had just 16-18 farmers selected for local authority nitrates inspections in the same period.

In terms of number of farmers, Limerick would be similar to Meath and yet Meath Co Council instigated far fewer nitrates inspections at 65-89 per year for the three-year period.

Irish Independent

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