A farmer was told they had incurred a penalty over four years after the inspection had been carried out, the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture has heard.

Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) general secretary, Eddie Punch, outlined the case of a beef finisher to the committee last week at a discussion on the agricultural appeals process.

“I have here in my possession a letter to a farmer dated 19 February 2024, setting out a 3% penalty as a result of [Statutory Management Requirement] One, which is nitrates.This applies to an inspection conducted, wait for this, on 5 November 2019.

“In my view, justice delayed is justice denied,” Punch told the committee.

“I think this is scandalous, that we have a penalty being applied to a farmer in 2024 based on an inspection in 2019.That is not acceptable under any circumstances,” he said.

Punch added that a delay like this to a penalty from an inspection could result in further penalties being applied to a farmer unknowingly.

“If you have a penalty imposed in 2019 and are never informed of it, you could, unwittingly, make the same error in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

“Then, you could potentially have a letter from the Department in 2024, accusing you of intentional behaviour and do absolute havoc in terms of penalties, which – when you accumulate them in that way – could cause serious damage to a farmer’s financial viability,” he said.