European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius has confirmed that Ireland’s nitrate reduction must be on schedule.

A report by the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) concluded nitrate levels were too high in many of Ireland’s rivers and lakes.

Farmers warn cutting the use of nitrates will mean culling animals. However, speaking in Dublin a short time ago Commissioner Sinkevicius, said better water quality is in everyone’s interest.

The commissioner met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine today (Thursday, November 23).

“Farmers do realise their responsibilities as well, and if the quality of water is stable, if it’s improving, win, win for everyone,” the commissioner said.

Commissioner Sinkevicius and Minister McConalogue

The derogation allows farmers to farm at organic nitrogen (N) stocking rates up to 250kgN/ha.

The Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) and the Environmental Pillar urged the commissioner to stick with the decision.

An Taisce’s Dr. Elaine McGoff said: “We impressed upon Commissioner Sinkevičius that we have reached a critical point in tackling water quality in Ireland”.

Farmers and nitrate reduction

Dr. Groff said that it is now up to the Irish government to put in place a “well-formulated plan”, using data from EPA to assist farmers in managing their holdings under the new derogation limits.

Tipperary TD and Rural Independent Group leader, Mattie McGrath said that the result of no extension on the decision was “devastating”.

The deputy said that he had urged the Taoiseach to make a “compelling case” for extending the existing nitrates directive by an additional two years.

“The practical implications of the government’s failure to leverage today’s meeting for an extension mean that impacted farmers are now forced to contemplate culling healthy cows, including pregnant ones, to meet the lower nitrogen requirements,” Deputy McGrath said.

“It is evident that the Green Party’s climate change ideology is steering government policy on this issue, representing a blatant betrayal of Irish dairy farmers,” the deputy added.