Twenty-one farmers were penalised for spreading slurry during the closed period in 2021, figures from the Department of Agriculture show.

The number is up from the 12 farmers who breached the rules in 2020. Data in relation to 2022 is not yet available, as inspections continue to be finalised.

The Department could not provide data in relation to how much these 21 farmers were fined, as penalty amounts are calculated based on the final penalty position for the overall cross compliance inspection outcome.

The closed slurry spreading period began on 8 October and in 2023 it will begin on 1 October under the nitrates action programme.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue can grant an exemption to the closed period in the event of exceptional weather conditions, for example heavy rainfall and sufficient growth for nutrient uptake.

He did not avail of the exemption in 2022.

Closed period

The closed period ends on three different dates in 2023, depending on where you are in the country.

Farmers in zone A (Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Offaly, Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow) can begin slurry spreading on 12 January.

Farmers in zone B (Clare, Galway, Kerry, Limerick, Louth, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath) can begin slurry spreading on 15 January and farmers in zone C (Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan) can spread slurry from 31 January.