Nitrates derogation secured until end of 2021

Ireland has been formally granted a derogation under the Nitrates Directive following the receipt of legal approval from the EU Commission.

This news was confirmed in a joint announcement by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy, earlier today.

Minister Creed said: “The renewal of the derogation for a further four years is great news for Ireland’s farmers as it allows them to plan ahead with certainty over the medium term.

All farmers have an important role to play in protecting our environment particularly those farming intensively.

Minister Murphy also commented, stating: “The decision is recognition by fellow EU member states that Ireland is maintaining a balanced commitment to ongoing improvements in water quality – while also generating greater value from the agri-food sector.

“Both aims can be compatible and our successful implementation of the Nitrates Regulations and the associated derogation over the first three Action Programmes has shown that,” he added.

This formal legal approval follows December’s positive vote at a meeting of the EU Nitrates Management Committee in Brussels and the signing, by Minister Murphy, of the new Nitrates Regulations on December 20, 2017 – giving effect to Ireland’s fourth Nitrates Action Programme.

This programme will now be amended to reflect the terms of the derogation and marks the conclusion of the process.

Minister Murphy also noted: “Farmers must be aware of the increased level of commitment to water quality that is required of them when they apply to farm at more intensive stocking rates.”

This is especially the case, he noted, in light of recent water quality results “which show that significant additional effort is required across a range of sectors if the long-term water quality targets set out in the Water Framework Directive are to be achieved”.

The derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate than that stipulated in the Directive, subject to adherence to stricter rules to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The derogation will run to the end of 2021 when the fourth programme concludes.

Minister Creed also announced the opening of the 2018 online application facility.

“I would encourage more intensively stocked farmers to engage early with this application process and discuss the need for a derogation with their agricultural advisor,” the Minister added.

Over 7,000 intensively stocked farmers availed of the derogation in 2017, with a similar number anticipated to avail of the facility in 2018.

The closing date for applications is April 20, 2018. Farmers who applied for a derogation in 2017 are reminded that they must submit fertiliser accounts by April 20 also.

End of year Nitrogen and Phosphorus statements (N&P statements) for 2017 are available on the department’s online system.

Farmers who exceeded the limits in 2017 based on their cattle numbers will be advised in writing of this shortly; but these figures will not have taken into consideration any documentation submitted to the department by December 31, 2017.