On farm Nitrate Inspections - are you ready?


Farmers can get annoyed with people outside the farm-gate telling them how they should farm, and rightly so!

However some assistance is always beneficial, especially the farm quality assurance advisers/inspectors or the likes of CAFRE advisers who are there to help farmers to become more efficient and be profitable.

Of course assistance is always available from the members of the Agricultural Consultants Association ACA (NI).

However it seems that the ‘Green lobby’ environmentalists are the ones making the rules and appear to be convincing the ‘powers to be’ how the farmers should farm.

Recently the new Defra secretary Michael Gove stated that farmers post Brexit would receive subsidies for farming provided they did it in an environmentally sensitive way. Does he not realise that NI farmers have always being doing this and adhering to the cross-compliance regulations which are in place here and are most probably the strictest in the UK with severe penalties if they are not adhered to.

The list of regulations is endless, with the latest one on ammonia emissions, which appears to be going against all the good work taken in promoting the ‘Going for Growth’ project and preventing farmers building to expand or modernising their farm business.

I believe that many of the environmental regulations are a bureaucratic burden on farmers with no scientific justification. However for farmers there is little they can do, except to adhere to these regulations to avoid a cross-compliance breach and financial penalty.

NIEA Nitrate Inspections

At this time of year NIEA will be starting the main run of Cross-compliance nitrate inspections to ensure that farmers are not polluting waterways and are efficiently using animal manures, chemical fertiliser while at the same time keeping within the Nitrogen Loading and all the other limits, as well as having adequate and sufficient storage of slurry and farm yard manure.

Are you ready for a possible nitrate inspection?

When a farmer receives a letter from NIEA (approximately a week’s notice is given) advising them of an inspection, panic sets in! This should not be the case (unless you know you have a problem) but it is human nature to be afraid of the unknown.

Farmers have two options, do the work for the inspection themselves or seek professional assistance. I would recommend the latter, although the DAERA online calculators and the CAFRE training courses are very helpful and beneficial. ACA (NI) members can prepare all the calculations either from the online calculators or their own spreadsheets and also check the farmyard and the fields with waterways prior to the inspection.

One big benefit prior to an inspection is that ACA (NI) members have attended comprehensive training courses organised by DAERA and NIEA and are aware of all the aspects NIEA will consider at an inspection especially around the farmyard. Further ACA (NI) members have a lot of experience and knowledge in this field.

Remember time is of the essence and the information required is extensive, so you need to act immediately.

NIEA during their inspections this year can ask for the farm records from 2012 to 2016. The list below shows the typical records that NIEA will be requesting;

- Land area farmed. This can be taken from the SAFs completed each year. From 2015 it will be the total BPS area claimed. Prior to 2015 the area farmed may include conacre, which you did not claim SFP on, so controller agreements will still be needed.

- As well as grassland, the cereal crops grown will have to be identified.

Livestock numbers can be found on APHIS, or in the flock, pig or poultry record books. Stock numbers are counted at six times during the year (on APHIS cattle numbers are counted every alternative month from February onwards). An authorisation will be required for an agent to get the APHIS details from DAERA.

- Annual Imports or exports of slurry, FYM or poultry litter. From 2015 if a farmer exporting slurry, in other words to keep below the 170 kg N or 250 kg N (derogated farmers) they must submit an annual return to NIEA by 31 January showing what was exported and where it went. I don’t see the justification for this additional information and again it goes against the ‘Going for Growth’ project.

- Storage of livestock manure is a section which catches a lot of farmers out where they have less than 22 or 26 (pig farmers) week’s storage. Dimensions of storage tanks, stock numbers housed, straw bedding areas, out-wintered stock and open yards where stock roam are all needed.

- Quantity of rainfall. Following on from above a big problem is the quantity of rainfall falling on open silos, yards where cattle roam or even ‘clean’ yards but run to slurry tanks.

It is essential that the quantity of rainfall is collected correctly, and don’t forget to check spouting and down pipes. There should be a distinct separation and collection of rainwater as opposed to dirty water.

- Fertiliser for grassland (272 kg N/ha on dairy farms and 222kg N/ha on all other farms) should be in the VAT records. Not really a problem on all grass farms but could be on cereal areas where the fertiliser applied including livestock manure should not exceed the crop requirement.

Professional help can be a great benefit and will take the pressure off the farmer so that they can get on with practical farming matters.

The list below gives ACA (NI) members throughout NI who could assist you in Nitrate calculations and also the other paperwork, which DAERA requires for your business.

There are also names of other agents on the DAERA website, under Online Agents

Co Antrim

Christie McCauley, Armoy (028) 2075 1378

Tom Moorhead, Ballymena (028) 2568 4506 or 07955 347880

Margaret Thompson, Ahogill (028) 2587 1497 or 07974 220496

Co Armagh

Lynn Archer, Richhill 07739 872079

Ian Carrick, Portadown 07800 870643

John Clarke, Markethill (028) 3750 7321 or 07842 911642

Ciaran Kerr, Lurgan 07956 656588

John King, Markethill 07775 854895

Co Down

Gerard Cunningham, Kilkeel (028) 4176 3339

Malachy Higgins, Ballynahinch (028) 9756 3103 or 07708 222252

Charlie Kilpatrick, Hillsborough 07714 720160

Douglas Nesbitt, Loughbrickland (028) 3831 8270 or 07968 847257

David Rankin, Banbridge 07793 107087

Co Fermanagh

Gemma McMahon, Rosslea (028) 6775 1011 or 07724 696976

Co Londonderry

Geoff Connell, Maghera 07714 307411

Roland Corbett, Dungiven (028) 7774 2225 or 07718 000124

John O’Hagan, Draperstown (028) 7962 9727 or 07887 620050

Co Tyrone

Liam Corry, Castlederg (028) 8167 9699 or 07845 398552

Eileen Elliott, Dungannon (028) 8775 8297 or 07780 933033

Rory P Gormley & Co Ltd, Dromore (028) 8289 8179

Francis Heagney, Cookstown (028) 8675 1957 or (028) 8675 1539 or 07709 762717

Eilis Kelly, Pomeroy (028) 8775 9555 or 07342 971981

Desmond McCarroll, Omagh (028) 8284 1511 or 07787 522039

Mary McCormack, Carrickmore (028) 8076 1339 or 07789 067231

Kate McFarland, Newtownstewart (028) 8166 2432

Peter Thompson, Drumquin (028) 8283 1202

George Woods, Fintona (028) 8284 1567 or 07979 004179