‘Nitrate restrictions could undermine farmer viability’ – ICMSA

Further restrictions on farms that are stocked below 170kg/nitrogen/ha “have the potential to undermine their viability”, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

Speaking in light of the current review of the nitrates derogation, Denis Drennan, the association’s Farm and Rural Affairs Committee chairperson, argued that: “Farms must be environmentally sustainable but also economically viable.”

The ICMSA says it “strongly opposes” restrictions being placed on farms in that category of stocking rate, and is also concerned over suggestions that farmers who export slurry to maintain that rate may face further challenges.

Drennan pointed out that almost 5,000 farmers export slurry for this purpose, and said that a change of rules could have “serious implications” for them.

He went on to claim that, despite the effectiveness of low-emission slurry-spreading equipment, there were “clear practical barriers” to its use – namely, the lack of such equipment.

“The very obvious fact is that there simply isn’t enough low-emission equipment or contractors out there to make this happen,” argued Drennan.

“There are also questions around the suitability of this type of equipment for many land types that have to be addressed, as well as the financial costs on farmers,” he added.

The ICMSA says that it is seeking a 60% grant from the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes (TAMS) for low-emission equipment to offset the cost for farmers.

“We are also lobbying that farmers should be able to get the VAT back on this equipment and it should qualify for accelerated capital allowances,” Drennan explained.

“Farmers will embrace technology and technological solutions, but where those solutions are hugely expensive and are being advanced to benefit wider society we think it’s right that policy helps the farmers concerned to purchase and use the technology,” he argued.

The farm and rural affairs chair also called for this type of sustainable policy to be supported under Pillar II of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) post-2020.