New rules where derogation farms must have 50% of their slurry spread by June 15 are “utterly unrealistic”, according to the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine managed to secure a renewal of its nitrates derogation up until 2021 in December of last year, as long as certain additional obligations were followed.

These additional rules included the need for derogation farmers to have half of their slurry spread by the middle of June; after that, slurry must be spread with low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment.

Denis Drennan – who is the chairperson of the ICMSA’s Farm and Rural Affairs Committee – labelled the deadline as “practically impossible”. He said that is “already obvious” that the deadline will have to be extended.

Drennan noted that the new rules will affect some 7,000 individual farmers who have applied for a derogation. He added that, in addition to having 50% of slurry spread by mid-June, the new rules stipulate that the slurry spread after June 15 must be done using low emission equipment.

After the spring we’ve had – and given the catastrophic ground conditions – it’s just not going to be possible to have 50% of the slurry spread by June 15.

“Every farmer in Ireland is at least four to six weeks behind on their work schedule and ICMSA is stating now that, rather than setting unrealistic timelines that just compound already record levels of stress, would it not be better for the department to accept now that it’s already obvious that June 15 is unrealistic and that this date must be extended to at least mid-July,” he said.

Drennan said that farmers and contractors are under massive pressure and will remain in that state for the next number of months.

If the department could relieve one element of that pressure by extending the proposed date, it would be a really worthwhile gesture that “does no more than recognise the reality”, the chairman concluded.