The number of farmers applying for nitrates derogations is up over 50% since 2007, according to latest figures from the Department of Agriculture.

Some 6,323 farmers applied for the derogation in 2015 which allows farmers to exceed the limit of 170 kg of livestock manure nitrogen per hectare set down in the Nitrates Regulations, up to a maximum of 250 kg per hectare, subject to adherence to stricter rules.

The Department figures also show that 2,336 farmers breached the 170kg N/ha limit in 2014 and did not apply for a derogation. It says some may have exported slurry, rented/grazed other lands not declared on SPS 2014 or were affected with TB.

Teagasc says farmers using over 170kg N/ha who did not apply for a derogation have reduced significantly since 2007; however, in 2014 and 2015 these have risen due to increased stock numbers, mainly on dairy farms.

Fewer farmers are over 250kg N/ha, as farmers are reducing stocking rates or exporting slurry to comply.

There are penalties for farmers who exceed 170kg organic N/ha, but who did not apply for a derogation in that year

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney recently announced that farmers and their agents can now submit 2016 Nitrates Derogation applications using the Department’s on-line facilities.

The closing date for applications is March 31, 2016.

Nitrates Derogation key Terms and Conditions

  • An annual application must be made online to the Department. No postal applications will be accepted.
  • Farming a holding that is at least 80% grass. Have grazing livestock – a derogation is only available in respect of grazing livestock.
  • Have a Fertilisation Plan in place on the holding by 1st March. This plan should be submitted to the Department along with the application form unless the farmer has a valid REPS 4 plan in place since 2013 or has submitted a fertiliser plan to the Department in 2013, 2014 or 2015.
  • Fertiliser plans must be based on soil analysis results dated after 15th September 2012.
  • Applicants who have never previously applied for a derogation and do not have soil analysis results must assume Index 3 for 2016 but must have samples analysed and their fertiliser plan amended accordingly before 31 December 2016.
  • Fertiliser accounts must be submitted to the Department no later than 31st March of the following year.
  • Farmers in derogation cannot import livestock manure