The proposed changes to the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) are “essentially a reintroduction of what were previously known as quotas”, according to Macra na Feirme.

John Keane, the association’s president, was speaking at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine today (Tuesday, September 14).

“Our biggest concern from our members is that the ability for them to grow their businesses and drive efficiencies on-farm are going to be impinged by some of the proposals outlined,” Keane argued.

“The big thing from our membership’s point of view is that the measures introduced, no matter what they are…that they be complementary to the farming practices and the realities of farming on the ground.”

The Macra president highlighted to the committee that when on-farm infrastructure and other investments become a legislative and regulatory requirement (as is demanded by the NAP proposals in their current form) then grant aid support is no longer allowed.

All farm organisations that attended today’s meeting outlined their opposition to these proposals, while acknowledging the importance of water quality.

Pat McCormack, the president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA), told TDs and senators that the ceiling of grants under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) would have to be increased to €120,000 to take account of the infrastructural changes that would be needed on-farm.

On the plan to separate soiled water and slurry and to introduce a close period for spreading soiled water, McCormack argued that dairy farmers “have invested substantial sums of money in tanks to accommodate the soiled water over the last number of years”.

“Various systems have been invested in by farmers to spread the soiled water during the 12-month calendar year and any change to that would have a substantial impact on the day-to-day running of farms. It cannot be tolerated and cannot be implemented as we move forward,” the ICMSA president argued.

He added that the “notion of separating soiled water and slurry on farms is nonsensical”.

McCormack stressed that “there needs to be a bit of leeway for farmers who are unfortunate enough not to get [TAMS] approvals in the required period of time” for low-emissions slurry spreading (LESS) equipment.