New measures introduced under nitrates regulations

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Darragh O’Brien today (Thursday November 19) announced the introduction of more stringent measures under the nitrates regulations.

The new measures introduce a requirement in relation to liming; the use of low emission slurry spreading (LESS) technology; and reducing crude protein in concentrates on those farms at over 170kg organic N/ha and who currently do not avail of the nitrates derogation.

Minister O’Brien said: “These regulations apply the same requirement to all farmers over 170kg organic N/ha.

“This is an important step up in the contribution of these farmers to support water quality.”

Minister McConalogue added: ‘”The measures provide farmers the opportunity to improve their environmental footprint while improving and protecting water quality.

Level playing field

Both ministers added: “Farms operating at these levels (over 170kg organic N/ha and nitrates derogation farms) implement many of the very best practices in nutrient management planning and this revision to the regulation will ensure a level playing field.

“It is important that all farmers (i.e. over 170kg N/ha), including those not in derogation, play their part in protecting water quality.”

Following discussions between both ministers, the raft of measures will to be introduced from January 1, 2021. However, the introduction of the requirement to LESS for these farmers (over 170kg organic N/ha) will be introduced from April 15, 2021.

The current requirement to use LESS technology on nitrates-approved derogation farms remains in place where all slurry applied during 2021, must be applied by LESS methods.

‘Balance has been struck’

Commenting on the amended timeframe for the introduction of LESS, Minister McConalogue said: “I am happy to announce that following constructive discussions between myself and Minister O’Brien, a balance has been struck allowing a revised timeframe to prepare these farmers for switching to LESS equipment.

It is critical to stress that there will be no further amendments beyond April 15, 2021. Both myself and Minister O’Brien are committed to our environmental commitments under the Nitrates Action Programme and Derogation.

“We all must work collectively to ensure the measures contained within the Nitrates Action Programme and Derogation are adhered to while also ensuring that productive farmers are supported,” Minister McConalogue said.

The agriculture minister also welcomed the fact that farmers are embracing LESS technology which has significant benefits in reducing ammonia emissions; improving the fertiliser value of slurry; and increasing the window available for application of slurry.

He confirmed that over 7,900 applications for support under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) have been received with over 2,700 farmers paid to-date.

The European Commission had requested Ireland to review some of the technical aspects of the Nitrates Action Programme, therefore the annual excretion rates for the dairy cow were reviewed based on the most recent scientific research.

The minister said that the research indicates “based on scientific data, the excretion rate of the dairy cow should be reflected closer to 89kg organic nitrogen” with the current regulation having been revised to reflect this change for implementation from January 1, 2021.