Breaches of cattle identification rules could result in livestock farmers receiving fixed penalty fines under new proposals from the Department of Agriculture.

The Irish Farmers Journal understands that a fixed penalty notice of €250 has been proposed where livestock owners are deemed to have seriously breached animal tagging and registration regulations.

The fixed-notice regime, if introduced, will replace the current system whereby penalties are levied on farmers’ Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) entitlements under cross compliance.

The cross-compliance fines were generally in the order of 3% of a farmer’s overall BPS for animal tagging or registration infringements.

The proposed changes to the tagging regime were discussed this week by Department officials and representatives of the main farm organisations.

Under the new CAP, which comes into force in January 2023, livestock identification and registration is no longer included in cross-compliance inspections as it has been removed as a conditionality for the programme.

However, in communications with the farm organisations, the Department pointed out that livestock owners are still required to comply with EU animal traceability regulations. It is understood that the same level of inspections on livestock tagging and registrations will be carried out by the Department next year, with fixed-notice penalties possibly acting as the enforcement mechanism for those found to be in breach of the regulations.

The €250 fines proposed by the Department will be imposed where breaches of the regulations are deemed to be “serious and warrant the issue of such a notice”.

Failure to pay the fines could result in a court appearance for the farmer and an increased risk of further inspections, the farm organisations have been told. The introduction of fixed penalties will benefit farmers with high direct payments, while hitting those on low payments.

The changed system will not matter for farmers with a BPS of €8,300 as the current 3% penalty and fixed-notice fine will both result in a €250 loss.

Higher fines

However, farmers with a BPS of less than €8,300 face higher fines under the proposed fixed notice regime. For example, a 3% penalty imposed on a farmer with a BPS of €5,000 equates to €150. But under the new regime, that farmer will have to pay a fine of €250.

Breaches of regulations around livestock tagging and identification have traditionally generated most farmer fines under cross-compliance.

A total of 975 cattle and sheep farmers were fined in 2020 as a result of animal tagging and registration issues.