The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that it has “legitimate and serious concerns about the intentions” published in the latest Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP).

The association said that it proposes that the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) can publish its record on inspections, application data and enforcement on individual farmers operating under nitrates derogation.

President of the ICMSA Pat McCormack said that he “failed to see how publication of these details was in any way relevant to the relationship between the individual farmer and the department’s operating and regulating the system of derogations”.

He added that one could only surmise that the intention of publishing this type of technical information was “designed to, in some sense, ‘give ammo’ to the anti-dairy element, who would then be in a position to object specifically to individual farmers”.

Publishing data on nitrates programme farms is ‘unacceptable’

McCormack continued: “I don’t see how publishing this type of information makes any sense, this information in most cases relates to a family farm – which is usually also the family home –  and publishing details of people who are fully compliant with the regulations is unacceptable.”

The ICMSA is urging the government not adopt what it calls the ‘over-the-top’ proposal.

The association stressed that any derogation is a specific matter between the individual farmer and the regulatory authority.

“Why does anyone else need to know the data submitted by the farmer and accepted by the state in that arrangement?” McCormack said.

“Why does anyone else need to know the results of inspections by the state on that individual’s adherence to the governing regulations? There is a system of regulation in place and that system should be allowed to operate.”

McCormack said that farmers operating under a derogation typically have invested hugely in their farm and operate at a very high technical level.

He said that the targeting of derogation farmers – the majority of which are family farms – in this way is totally unacceptable.  

“If the environmental challenges are to be successfully addressed and met, then the government needs to work with farmers in the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust,” the president continued.

“This proposal to publish individual farmer details is a blatantly retrograde step that could cripple the very spirit of trust and cooperation required,” he concluded.

The next NAP, which will run from 2022 to 2025, is due to be finalised in early March.