Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed has been called on to clarify what supports his department is willing to offer farmers who switch from CAN fertiliser to protected urea, by independent TD Carol Nolan.

Deputy Nolan was speaking after concerns were raised with her by some farmers. The TD claims that they feel they are being encouraged to make the change in the fertiliser type they use “despite worries about the impact it may have on crop yield levels”.

Expanding on this, the Offaly TD said:

We know from research conducted by the department that fertiliser use is the largest variable cost on Irish farms, currently accounting for over €400 million annually.

“We also know that the dominant nitrogen fertiliser used in Ireland is calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) and that increasing nitrogen-use efficiency is an important factor for achieving the Food Harvest 2020 targets to ensure sustainability, both financially and environmentally.”

Deputy Nolan noted that there has recently been a “considerable drive” to have farmers switch to urea protected with NBPT.

“What I want to know however is what analysis the minister has conducted in terms of assessing the impact of replacing CAN with urea fertiliser.

“I also want him to make it clear if there is evidence that supporting this transition will lead to a reduction in direct farm costs.

Most farmers want to play their part in being environmentally sustainable – but they also want clear assurances that any policy direction on the recommended use of one type of fertiliser over another will not threaten crop yields and income.

“If the minister does continue to encourage a transition away from CAN then he must make clear what supports are available should crop or yield productions fall as a direct result of this,” concluded deputy Nolan.