Ireland’s fifth Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) has been finalised, and the Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters Regulations 2022 have been signed, it has been announced.

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue jointly delivered the news today (Friday, March 11), from when the new NAP comes into effect.

It will run until the end of 2025, with an interim review taking place in 2023.

“Protecting and improving water quality is a national priority in Ireland, and this action programme has new, strengthened measures that will help to achieve this,” Minister O’Brien said.

“Farmers play a key role in improving water quality and this new set of measures will further enhance this and help Ireland meet its water quality targets as set out in Ireland’s River Basin Management Plan,” he added.

The Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters Regulations 2022 gives effect to the requirements in the Nitrates Directive in Ireland, and is a critical piece of legislation implemented by farmers on their farms.

The new measures are designed to further enhance water quality protection in Ireland and include extensions to both the closed period for spreading slurry and chemical fertiliser; a 10% reduction in the chemical fertiliser limit applied nationally; and a stronger focus on compliance and enforcement.

These measures were developed following three separate consultation periods and receipt of over 700 submissions from the public and stakeholders.

A jointly chaired expert group – from both the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine – considered the submissions and made recommendations on changes to the programme which have been accepted by both ministers.

Commenting, Minister McConalogue said:

“The finalisation of the fifth NAP paves the way for a formal vote on Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation next week.

“Securing the Nitrates Derogation is a key priority for Ireland and key priority of mine as it helps protect and enhance our water quality while protecting our farmers.

“All farmers have an important role to play in protecting and improving our water and environment, particularly those farming intensively, and securing the derogation will give clarity for more intensive farmers. Securing the derogation will help us build on our already good water quality into the future.”

The European Commission’s implementing decision regarding Ireland’s application for an extension of its Nitrates Derogation will be subject to a vote of EU member states, which is due to take place on March 17.

If a successful vote is secured, the derogation will be incorporated into the new NAP.

The NAP is available here