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'Reporting farmers for cross compliance issues not the way forward'

Local authorities say fining farmers is not the answer as vast numbers of non-compliances go un-reported to Department

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To date some 966 health and safety inspections have been carried out on farms this year.

To date some 966 health and safety inspections have been carried out on farms this year.

To date some 966 health and safety inspections have been carried out on farms this year.

There is insufficient cross-reporting of farm non-compliances to the Department of Agriculture for Single Farm Payment penalties, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has said.

A new report released by the EPA reviews local authority environmental enforcement performance for 2014 – 2016.

On a national basis, only one-in-six (17pc) farm non-compliances were stated as cross-reported to Department of Agriculture in 2016.

This is even lower than the 2015 rate of 23pc and the 2014 rate of 28pc. National policy in this area is 100pc cross-reporting of non-compliances.

The EPA said the assessment for this remains ‘unsatisfactory’ in 2016.

However, it also said Local Authority farm inspections serve to provide advice and guidance to farmers in relation to changing behaviour and improving environmental protection practices.

As part of this role, the EPA noted that local authorities have stated that cross-reporting can result in loss of stakeholder engagement where financial sanctions are applied.

Local authorities also said that minor non-compliances can be resolved through Section Notices and re-inspection.

Local authority inspection areas:

  • Enforcement of Nitrates Regulations following notification of a sanction by the DAFM (cross-report)
  • Drinking water source protection – farms close to a drinking water source will be inspected to ensure protection of that source from contamination
  • Pollution investigations
  • Complaint investigations

The EPA report showed that the overall combined performance for farm inspections improved marginally from ‘Minimum’ in 2015 and 2014 to ‘Below Target’ in 2016.

The total number of local authority farm inspections was 3,329 in 2016.

However, the EPA says additional improvements are required from a national enforcement priority perspective.

While there was continued improvement in completed versus planned farm inspections in 2016, farm inspection numbers continued to decrease with almost 200 less inspections undertaken in 2016 compared with the baseline year in 2014.

It said reduced farm inspections and cross compliance reporting requires corrective action.

The EPA said there is a need for local authorities to address how farm inspections are planned and carried out and the subsequent implementation of cross-reporting of non-compliances to Department of Agriculture.

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