THE ICMSA has warned that a court case involving a Limerick farmer could set a precedent, which would make normal farming practices "incredibly difficult".
Proceedings by Limerick County Council against beef finisher, Jim Flavin, arising from alleged odour nuisance at his farm at Grange, Co Limerick, were found proven at last month's sitting of Kilmallock District Court, but the case was adjourned to this month's sitting to allow the parties engage.
The case arose from a neighbour of Mr Flavin making complaints to the County Council about odours from the farm where Mr Flavin, who has two butcher shops in Limerick city, finishes up to 1,000 cattle each year in what he described in court as a "farm to fork" beef enterprise.
The court was told that livestock farms do not require a licence from the EPA and there are no guidelines from the EPA for assessing unlicensed farms.
Mr Flavin's neighbour, who lives 120-130 metres from the farm, told the court hearing that "sometimes there is a sweet smell. Other times it is like dead animals", reported the Limerick Leader.
Dr Simon Jennings, an executive technician with Limerick County Council, stated that he had carried out a 'sniff test' in the vicinity of Mr Flavin's farm and had detected an animal feed smell that passed the thresholds deemed to be a nuisance. He later visited the farm where he had detected a 'very acidic' smell from what he believed was a 'chemical reaction' between feedstuffs.
Expert witnesses for Mr Flavin's defence included Teagasc agri-consultant, Pat Blackwell, who said that a Department of Agriculture inspection for nitrates on Mr Flavin's farm on February 8, 2012, resulted in no penalties.
He added that there were no dead animals or carcasses on the farm which has Bord Bia quality assurance.
Agri-consultant David Walsh said after complaints were made, Mr Flavin put a compound to reduce odour emissions into his slurry and changed from pit silage to baled silage to prevent the smell from effluent run-off.
Mr Walsh said he had detected no strong or offensive odours on his visits to Mr Flavin's farm.
Judge Mary Larkin found the facts proved but did not convict Mr Flavin. It was agreed that the case would be adjourned back to Kilmallock until later this month for the parties to engage.
Limerick ICMSA chairman, Michael Lenihan, issued a public appeal this week to both sides to pause and consider the implications of the case.
"The situation where neighbours can have complaints about normal farm odours upheld, will effectively make farming incredibly difficulty, bordering on impossible," he told the Farming Independent.
"If his enterprise (Mr Flavin's farm and beef enterprise) can be found to be below the standards people can now insist upon, then there is very little hope for 90pc of the rest of Limerick's farmers."
Mr Lenihan warned that if residents in rural areas can object to odours on a neighbouring farm and have these objections upheld, farming operations could potentially become impossible for the majority of progressive farmers in the country.