Farm inspections, including nitrates inspections, in Northern Ireland will be suspended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said that all routine farm inspections would be halted until 30 April.

However, Minister Edwin Poots said that certain inspections, including TB and brucellosis testing, would continue.

“Pausing routine inspections in the short term is necessary to protect farmers and staff and it ensures we can direct the Department’s resources in the best way,” Poots said.

“It also minimises disruption and provides certainty for farmers at a very difficult time.”

In the Republic of Ireland, inspections are continuing, although a certain amount of the young farmer inspections can now be carried out over the phone.

Inspections paused in Northern Ireland


  • Planned inspections for SMR1 (nitrates and phosphates).
  • Inspections for SMR2 (wild birds) and SMR3 (semi-natural habitats).
  • EU area-based schemes inspections.

  • Rapid field visits (RFVs) for the Basic Payment Scheme.
  • Hedge mitigation inspections.
  • New business ID inspections.
  • Inspections for the Farm Business Improvement Scheme - Capital Tier 2 grant payments.
  • Veterinary inspections

  • Routine inspections – these include animal welfare, cross-compliance, cattle identification inspections, sheep identification inspections and enforcement inspections. The only exceptions would be reactive inspections, if absolutely necessary, to investigate serious animal welfare incidents or serious animal health breaches (for example, bovine TB fraud).
  • Scheduled official control inspections.
  • Other animal disease surveillance including post-import sampling of GB sheep for Maedi-Visna and the scrapie monitoring scheme for sheep.
  • Inspections continuing

  • bTB surveillance –
  • Brucellosis and all suspect epizootic disease cases on farm, such as Foot and Mouth, avian influenza, bluetongue, etc, will continue to be investigated.
  • Public health risk sampling.
  • Environmental Farming Scheme inspections.
  • DAERA said the decision would be kept under review.

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