It is understood that the nitrates action plan (NAP) – and derogation – will not be approved by Europe by the end of this year, as expected.

This means that the January 1, 2022 commencement date for the next NAP – and accompanying derogation – will not be possible.

The news has spurred the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) to call for the existing nitrates regulation and derogation to be extended.

IFA chair, Paul O’Brien said and extension must be in place until the next NAP and accompanying derogation are in place.

In a statement, the IFA said it had been informed of this NAP news by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

It also said that the European Commission cannot approve the NAP – including the derogation – until its next meeting, scheduled for March 2022.

“Farmers are concerned to learn that the review of the fifth cycle of the NAP, covering the period 2022–2025, will not be completed by the end of 2021 as planned,” O’Brien said.

“This news is extremely worrying. The existing nitrates regulations are due to expire at the end of the year, yet the new proposals are not agreed.”

IFA dairy chairman, Stephen Arthur said that this delay concerns dairy farmers along with intensive drystock farmers whose farm businesses depend entirely on the derogation.

“It was expected that the derogation would be sought at December’s meeting. We are now looking at a delay of three months with no clarity in the interim.”

“The Department must extend the current Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters regulation and the associated nitrates derogation to provide farmers with certainty,” O’Brien said.

“Farmers need assurances that they can continue to operate under the existing regulation and derogation until the NAP review process has been completed and approved by the European Commission in the new year,” he said.