The EU Commissioner for the Environment is currently exploring options to ensure that “no animals will be slaughtered or herds reduced” as a result of the decision on the nitrates derogation, according to the MEP Colm Markey.

The Fine Gael MEP met with the EU Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius today (Tuesday, September 12) in the European Parliament, Strasbourg where he raised the impact of the commission’s decision on Irish farmers.

Ireland’s current derogation is due to expire on January 1, 2026 and the derogation limit is due to reduce to 220kg organic nitrogen (N) per hectare on January 1, 2024 in certain areas, because the latest water quality results have not shown sufficient improvement.

The MEP had previously questioned why the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine had made the case for Ireland’s nitrates derogation during a “virtual meeting”.

Minister Charlie McConalogue had outlined the case to retain Ireland’s current nitrates derogation to the European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, on a video call.

Markey said he had a “robust meeting” with the commissioner today and raised a number of concerns.

He added: “The commissioner told me he is committed to working to find a solution – within the framework – by the end of September, that would avoid slaughtering animals.

“I highlighted a number of issues and possible flexibilities including the unique situation in Ireland, the good work already being done at farm level and the need for testing methodologies to reflect that good work.

“We also discussed the Environment Protection Agency mapping data and the exporting of slurry.” 

The Midlands North West MEP said he believes Commissioner Sinkevicius is “open to further engagement on a possible way forward”.

“While challenges remain, I believe a more positive outcome can be achieved by the end of the month,” he added.

IFA president Tim Cullinan and Minister McConalogue in a 'heated debate' over the nitrates derogation
IFA president Tim Cullinan and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue in Tipperary. Source: Finbarr O’Rourke


Minister McConalogue has faced protests from angry farmers across the country following confirmation from the European Commission that there is “no prospect” of re-opening its current decision on Ireland’s nitrates derogation.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has staged a number of meetings in Dublin and in Co. Tipperary to protest about the nitrates derogation ruling and also late payments to farmers.

IFA president Tim Cullinan said: “Farmers are of the view that the derogation suits the government agenda as it reduces cow numbers by the back door.

“The fact the minister relied on a Zoom call to make the case for its retention feeds that view.”

The IFA has said it intends to stage another protest in Co. Limerick on Friday (September 15).