The environmental chairman of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has called for a farmer support scheme to encourage farmers to undertake soil conditioning measures such as liming, soil aeration and using protected urea.
Speaking at an IFA Nitrates Derogation Review meeting in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, Co. Meath, last night, Wednesday, May 22, environmental chairman Thomas Cooney said: “60% of Irish soils have a sub optimal pH.
Encouraging farmers to lime soil would lead to better utilisation of nitrogen (N), better uptake of phosphorus (P), less greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and an overall lower farm carbon footprint, while improving farm profitability.
Cooney noted that these measures are currently being undertaken by some farmers optionally in the IFA’s Smart Farming Programme.
At the meeting, Cooney stressed that the IFA is “totally opposed to farmers with low stocking rates having to take on any new compulsory measures”.
He stressed that the IFA will “fight tooth and nail” to retain derogations.
He highlighted the investment that has gone into farms over the past number of years and said “those farmers will need the derogation to be able to pay for that investment”.
Concluding, Cooney noted that output from derogation farmers is worth an estimated €900 million to the economy.
ACA vice president
Also speaking at the event, vice president of the Agricultural Consultants’ Association (ACA), Tom Canning, noted that the future of nitrates derogation is currently under review, and said “there was a real possibility that Ireland may not have a derogation after 2021”.
He then went on to explain that the slurry exports area “is being looked at very closely at the moment”, particularly where farmers are exporting slurry to stay below the 170kg/N/ha limit.
“That is under real pressure at the moment to try and retain it,” he continued.
“I believe we need to have a definitive answer on where we’re going with nitrates derogation.
“If a farmer has built up their place to milk 150 cows and has done all the projections, and borrowed the money and suddenly they’re forced to cut back to 100 cows – you can imagine the financial complications, the health implications and the stresses this would cause on farmers. It could be horrendous.”