Denmark has announced that it will not seek a further extension from the EU Commission for the country’s nitrates derogation.

The Danish Ministry of Environment said that a number of cattle farms have availed of the derogation from the EU Nitrates Directive for 22 years.

Similar to Ireland, it means that these farmers have been allowed to use more organic manure from livestock than other farms, subject to conditions.

However, in a statement, the ministry said that the so-called “cattle exception” will come to an end this summer.

Currently, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Flanders region in Belgium are the only EU territories in which the derogation applies.

The Netherlands’ derogation is being phased out by the end of 2025.

Nitrates derogation

Under the nitrates derogation granted to Denmark, some farms were allowed to apply 230kg of nitrogen (N) from livestock manure per hectare annually, compared to the standard EU limit of 170kg.

This was granted on the basis of certain requirements being met by these farmers.

The Danish government said that it has made the decision not to seek a further extension after July 31, 2024, based on discussions with the EU Commission about the condition of water quality in the country.

Overall, the ministry said that Denmark has not managed to reduce the discharge of nutrients to coastal waters in the last 10-15 years.

It noted that the purpose of the Nitrates Directive is to prevent and prevent contamination of the aquatic environment with nitrate from agriculture.

“We need to focus on how we can reduce nitrogen emissions. Therefore, we have decided that we will not apply to the EU Commission for an extension of the cattle exemption,” Danish Minister for Environment, Magnus Heunicke, said.

The ministry accepted that the decision will “lead to increased costs for certain cattle farms”.

“The costs for the cattle farms will have to be seen in the context of future decisions on climate action in the green tripartite,” it added.


The decision by the Danish government will result in Ireland being even more isolated on the European stage when it comes to retaining our nitrates derogation.

The 2023 nitrates derogation mid-term review resulted in a reduction of the derogation to 220kg of organic N/ha in some areas, combined with the nitrates banding changes announced in 2022.

The Irish derogation will again be subject to review by the European Commission in 2025.

To maintain the revised stocking rate of 220Kg N/ha, Ireland will be required to present verifiable evidence to the EU Commission that water quality is improving in areas of concern.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue previously said that his department can not give “an absolute assurance” in relation to holding on to the derogation, but will “make sure that we’re taking every action to keep the 220kgN/ha”.

He said that work needs to be done on farm level and at a political level in terms of water quality.

The Irish Creamery Milk Supplier Association (ICMSA) has warned that a further reduction or loss of the nitrates derogation would result in the loss of our competitive advantage.