Farmers have one week left to submit forms to avoid nitrates penalties

Farmers who exported slurry, rented extra land or temporarily moved cattle to another holding this year have less than one week to send the appropriate forms back to the Department of Agriculture to avoid nitrates penalties.

December 31, 2016 is the deadline for farmers to submit the appropriate forms to the Nitrates section, Johnstown Castle, Wexford.

Under the Nitrates Regulations, farmers are obliged to ensure that the total amount of Nitrogen (N) from organic manure applied to their own lands (including that deposited by the animals themselves) does not exceed 170kg of N per hectare (NPH) per year, i.e. equivalent to two dairy cows per hectare.

Farmers can apply for a Nitrates Derogation which allows them to farm up to 250kg NPH per year, subject to some additional conditions being met. How Is The Nitrogen Per Hectare (NPH) Figure Arrived At?

A Nitrates Derogation provides farmers an opportunity to farm at higher stocking rates, subject to certain conditions designed to protect the environment and meet the requirements of EU regulations.

Each year a small proportion of Irish farmers lose income by exceeding stocking rate limits in the Nitrates regulations and farmers can avoid these penalties by exporting slurry, renting more land or moving cattle temporarily to another holding.

Any farmer that is unsure about their position should contact their local agricultural advisor or the Nitrates section at 053-9163444.

Breaching the regulations can affect a farmers annual payments for a given year under the Direct Payment Schemes and Rural Development Programme measures, where applicable, the Department advises.

Some of the schemes that reductions can be applied to include the Basic Payment Scheme, Areas of Natural Constraints (ANC), AEOS, Grassland Sheep Scheme and so forth.

Farmers will receive a statement in January/February following the year of the breach and given an opportunity to explain why they should not be penalised.