‘Closing date for nitrates records needs to be extended’

The current implementation system for nitrates records is not working and needs to be reformed, according to Denis Drennan, chairperson of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association’s (ICMSA’s) Farm and Rural Affairs Committee.

Drennan reinforced his claim, noting that 40% of cross compliance penalties relate to farmers exceeding the organic nitrogen (N) limit.

One of the first changes that should be made is to extend the closing date for the submission of records to the end of January each year and, in addition, the introduction of an online system of recording, the chairperson said.

Such a change would ensure better compliance amongst farmers and would bring us into line with the system in place in Northern Ireland.

Farmers in Northern Ireland, Drennan said, have until March 1 to submit their nitrates organic fertiliser export records in 2018; while, in other years, the form had to be submitted by January 31.

The deadline for submitting the same form to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is December 31.

In 2016, 1,629 farmers incurred penalties for breaching the 170/250kg N/hectare limits in Ireland.

The ICMSA believes that many of these penalties relate to the failure to submit the relevant paperwork, such as the slurry export form, to the department by the December 31 deadline.

Many farmers miss this deadline due to the fact that they are unaware of their final position until after December 31 – which is also in the middle of the Christmas break; this is resulting in unnecessary penalties being applied, according to the farmers’ organisation.

The ICMSA is proposing to extend the deadline to the end of January each year, which would give farmers a chance to get their paperwork in order.

The change should also include the department informing farmers in early January of their final position for the previous year, in advance of the submission of records.

In addition, the option of online notification of records should be in place for the 2018 year – in order to provide an additional notification process for farmers.

Concluding, Drennan noted that the ICMSA believes that the current deadline is impractical and is leading to unnecessary penalties. He called for a closing date of January 31 going forward and the introduction of an online system.