Following a meeting with the European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius today (Thursday, November 23), the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) has said the onus is on the government to support water quality measures.

The commissioner met with a number of stakeholders, along with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

In a press conference following the event, Sinkevicius and the minister confirmed that the regulations attached with Ireland’s current nitrates derogation would not be changed, and that a reduction in derogation from 250kgN/ha to 220kgN/ha will go ahead in most areas of the country.

Minister McConalogue told the press conference that he would work to support derogation farmers at organic nitrogen (N) stocking rates above 220kgN/ha, to reduce their rates.

“What I have to do now, is what I have been doing, to work with farmers in terms of being clear in relation to the situation facing us next year, in that farmers have to farm to a maximum of 220kgN/ha under the derogation, and to work to support them in doing that.

“I have taken some steps in relation to the budget recently in that regard. We will also be publishing some adjustments as well in relation to excretion rates for young animals and for calves in particular,” he added.

“This is a challenge, this has been a challenge from the outset. We don’t take the derogation we have for granted. We very much appreciate it had value it, and we want to keep it and maintain it.

“To do that it’s really important not just from an agricultural point of view, but from wider society point of view – to continue the very strong work that farmers are doing across this country in relation to improving water quality, and also as well across the rest of society taking steps that are necessary there,” Minister McConalogue said.

Responding to the meeting with the commissioner today, ICMSA president, Pat McCormack said that the meeting was “useful and clarified several questions”.

“Chief amongst those clarifications was the commissioner’s concession that if water quality stabilised then Ireland could keep its derogation,” McCormack said.

“I have no doubt whatsoever that the incidence of water problems rightly or wrongly attributed to farming would fall. That trend is already apparent and would continue.”

“A more pressing issue was the state’s hopeless position on deteriorating water quality caused by its own inaction and indifference.

“The recent publication of untreated discharges at multiple locations all under the direct supervision of agencies of the state is as scandalous as it is revealing,” the outgoing ICMSA president added.