Following a cross-compliance inspection, a farmer was issued with a 5% sanction being imposed under Statutory Management Requirement (SMR) four in relation to nitrates rules.
The farmer was penalised after nitrates records were requested and not submitted to the Department. Furthermore, a slurry storage deficit of 19% was found.
Following further information supplied by the farmer and the slurry storage capacity element of the sanction was removed, a 3% sanction for not submitting nitrates records remained.
The farmer appealed the decision on the grounds of dissatisfaction with the way the inspection was carried out and that they were never requested to submit nitrate records. The farmer informed the appeals officer that they were not aware of the nitrates problem for nearly two years and that nitrates records were not requested by the inspecting officer, or by the Department following the inspection.
The appeals officer enquired with the Department what the policy was with regard to the request for information on nitrates records following an inspection. The Department outlined that its manual instructs officers to inform the farmer on the day of the inspection to forward records – and on the day the officers would also provide the farmer with a list of the specific records required and with details on the record submission deadline.
It was noted that the farmer's agricultural consultant had finalised the nitrates records for 2011 and the appeals officer concluded that all nitrates documentation was on hand and would have been forwarded to Department if requested.
The appeals officer found there was no written request made by the Department for the submission of nitrates records on a handwritten notice form given to the farmer on the day of inspection.
The appeals officer also took into consideration the almost two-year delay between the inspection and the penalty letter being issued.
The appeal was allowed.
The case is highlighted in the annual report of the Agriculture Appeals Office for 2017 released this week.