Requirements under renewal of the nitrates derogation remain in play

With Ireland having secured a renewal of its nitrates derogation up until 2021 in December of last year, certain additional obligations will apply.

As part of the new rules, half of the slurry produced on a farm under derogation must be spread before the middle of June.

From June 15, these farmers will be required to spread slurry using low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment.

These rules look set to remain in place for the coming year, despite concerns being raised in some corners following the persistent bad weather witnessed in Ireland in recent weeks.

Commenting on the matter in response to a parliamentary question from Fianna Fail’s Charlie McConalogue, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, acknowledged the challenging weather conditions and difficulties that farmers have faced of late.

But, he added that – increasingly – farmers are maximising the value of slurry through spring application.

The renewal of the nitrates derogation was secured on the basis of a strengthened set of water measures, Minister Creed said.

“This contrasts with a number of other EU member states which have had severe difficulties in negotiating a successful renewal of their derogations and who have faced significant delays or have secured a reduced term in their derogation approval.

The achievement of securing the renewal of the derogation is a significant milestone in the context of an expanding dairy herd and increasing milk production.

“While there are some additional stipulations attached to the derogation, these are the outcome of a year-long negotiation with the commission and two separate public consultations.

“It was important when seeking the renewal that Ireland demonstrated commitment to tackling agricultural impacts on water,” he said.

Emissions

In recent years, the number of farmers applying for a derogation has increased from 4,000 to 7,000, the minister added.

Continuing, he said: “Under the National Emissions Ceiling Directive, Ireland must also reduce its ammonia emissions, with agriculture responsible for 98% of ammonia emissions.

Ammonia losses from slurry are significantly reduced by slurry application in the springtime and also by using LESS equipment. Consequently the timeframes for slurry application stipulated in this measure will be effective in reducing ammonia losses.

“The new measure will assist farmers to deliver their production targets, reduce their greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions and reduce the risk of run-off to water quality,” he concluded.