Public consultation launched on Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien have announced the opening of public consultation in relation to the fourth review of Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme.

Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) gives effect to the requirements of the Nitrates Directive in Ireland.

The EU (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 605 of 2017), commonly referred to as the nitrates regulations, contain specific measures to protect surface waters and groundwater from nutrient pollution arising from agricultural sources.

The regulations expire at the end of 2021 and a new Nitrates Action Programme must be published at the beginning of 2022.

In opening this public consultation, Minister O’Brien said that protecting and maintaining water quality is a national priority, and that Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme “plays an important role in helping us to achieve this objective”.

“This review of the programme also gives us an opportunity to ensure it is realising this objective in parallel with biodiversity and climate action objectives as effectively as possible,” he added.

Minister McConalogue said this review is a key step in the preparation of regulations that will underpin Ireland’s fifth Nitrates Action Programme, which will remain in place until 2025.

“I look forward to hearing from a wide range of stakeholders during this consultation process, which will help us to focus on developing a more sustainable agricultural sector,” he concluded.

The consultation paper can be found online. The closing date for receipt of responses is January 15, 2021.

New measures introduced under nitrates regulations

Last week, the ministers announced the introduction of more stringent measures under the nitrates regulations.

The new measures introduce a requirement in relation to liming; the use of low emission slurry spreading (LESS) technology; and reducing crude protein in concentrates on those farms at over 170kg organic N/ha and who currently do not avail of the nitrates derogation.

According to 2019 data, the number of farms not in derogation is 5,511, while 6,786 are.

Minister O’Brien said: “These regulations apply the same requirement to all farmers over 170kg organic N/ha. This is an important step up in the contribution of these farmers to support water quality.”

Minister McConalogue added: ‘”The measures provide farmers the opportunity to improve their environmental footprint while improving and protecting water quality.”