An amendment has been approved, to Ireland’s fifth nitrates action programme, that will serve to protect water quality as well as wild-bird populations, according to a statement from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM).

Approval of the amendment – by Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue – has seen a revised action plan come into effect from July 28.

An amendment to the Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection Waters Regulation was signed by Minister O’Brien “which gives effect to the European Commission Implementing Decision granting Ireland a derogation for some farms to stock at a higher rate subject to stricter environmental rules” the DAFM said.

In addition, the amendment clarifies and refines requirements around shallow cultivation of land post-harvest.

Commenting on the amendment Minister O’Brien said:

“Protecting and improving water quality, along with biodiversity, is a national priority in Ireland, and these amendments provide additional clarity to Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme in order to achieve this objective.”

Following a public consultation on the draft environmental reports for the fifth Nitrates Action Programme, the government committed to reviewing the measure requiring shallow cultivation of arable land post-harvest to ensure there are no adverse impacts on farmland birds, he explained.

This amendment delivers on that commitment, according to the DAFM.

“To further build on this, the government is currently working with stakeholders to develop a research programme that will provide more information around this measure to ensure protection of wild bird populations over the coming years,” said Minister O’Brien.

Minister McConalogue said protection of the environment is central to guiding these amendments while providing certainty to farmers on the commitments they must undertake.

The amendments were agreed by the ministers following consultation with relevant stakeholders.