The nature of some of the proposals by the Nitrates Derogation Review expert group – in particular that around slurry spreading – are unworkable, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

One of the more controversial proposals unveiled by the expert group is to phase out splash plates for derogation farmers and use Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) equipment instead.

Commenting on the issue, IFA Inputs Project Team chairman John Coughlan noted that the group expects 12,000 farmers to use LESS equipment by April 2020.

“That’s nine months away: it is too short, totally impractical and will not work,” Coughlan said.

The chairman claimed that there is already a 12-month backlog for some of this equipment, highlighting that the “unrealistic time frame is distorting the trade by playing into the hands of manufacturers and distributors”.

Farmers say this is increasing the price of equipment and adding unnecessary costs to farmers in derogation.

Existing equipment will become redundant while LESS equipment will cost anything from €30,000 to €100,000 or more, the chairman said.

Coughlan called on Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, to increase the time-frame to at least five years to allow farmers to plan for this huge expense.

Expanding on this, he said: “Farmers are willing to play our part in dealing with climate change, but we cannot run our businesses like this.

We are struggling with difficult markets and high input costs and now we have government bodies who refuse to engage with the practicalities of farming.

According to the organisation, IFA’s pre-Budget 2020 submission seeks the following supports in this area, namely that: the overall grant aid available for the LESS scheme be increased to 60%; the separate limit to general Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS) be increased; LESS be included in an enhanced GLAS; and investment in LESS equipment be exempt from VAT.