The fact that farmers who apply for a slurry spreading extension will be prioritised for inspections has been described as “grossly unfair” by the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA).

The association welcomed the decision by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government as well as the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to allow farmers spread slurry beyond the October 15 deadline.

However, the news that those who apply for such an extension will be prioritised for local authority inspections is not right, according to the president of the ICMSA, John Comer.

Farmers have been given until Saturday, October 14, to apply to the nitrates sections of the Department of Agriculture for a slurry spreading extension.

This measure “heaps additional pressure” on those farmers who are already struggling with very adverse weather conditions, Comer added.

Normal farming practices have been made almost impossible due to particularly bad weather since mid-summer in certain parts of the country, he said.

The ICMSA president believes that the two government departments concerned should allow farmers to spread slurry without the “implied threat” of an inspection.

Prioritising farmers who apply for a slurry spreading extension for inspection defeats the purpose of giving them some “breathing space” and the opportunity to farm themselves out of their current problems, he said.

IFA environment chairman Thomas Cooney, has also called on the two government departments to review plans to introduce an inspection regime for farmers who need to manage manures over the winter.

“Farmers, particularly in the north-west, have had to endure very difficult farming conditions and continue to act responsibly by not spreading manures at this time.  This must not now lead to increased inspections and penalties being imposed on farmers,” he said.

Extension terms and conditions ‘disgraceful’

Meanwhile, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has described the terms and conditions of the slurry spreading extension as “disgraceful“.

The department’s solution to the slurry spreading issue announced yesterday is effectively only using a plaster, when there is still a “gaping wound” that needs to be dressed, the elected representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency said.

Any reprieve is welcome, but it is still not an ideal situation and the condition attached that farmers who apply for this extension will be prioritised for inspection by the authorities in the future is downright scandalous and amounts to bullying by the department.

“Does Minister Creed not realise what conditions farmers are having to work in at the moment? To threaten farmers in this way is a disgrace and Minister Creed should come out and apologise after this threat.

“It is not that farmers have any extra slurry, it is that they cannot spread the slurry they have because of wet land conditions. Whoever wrote the terms and conditions of this extension process does not understand much about what is going on.

“I welcome the extension, but threatening farmers is not the way to go about it,” he concluded.