Independent TD, Deputy Mattie McGrath has accused Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue of “undermining farmers’ progress”.

Over the past decade, the deputy said, farmers were “actively encouraged” by successive Irish governments to boost dairy production, with quotas eliminated as a green light.

However, he said that the minister is now “undermining their progress by failing to secure approval” from the European Commission to keep the limit of the current nitrates derogation.

Minister McConalogue announced last week that the nitrates derogation limit will drop to 220kg N/ha from January 1, 2024 in certain areas, due to insufficient improvement in water quality.

Commenting that under amended nitrates regulations there will be “even stricter” manure-spreading rules which will potentially cost dairy farmers up to €40,000 annually, he said:

“This has occurred because of the astonishing failure of the agriculture minister to stand up for farmers’ interests. He instead chose to bat with climate change bureaucrats in Brussels.”

The deputy made his comments after the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) protested outside the Fianna Fáil think-in in the Horse and Jockey Hotel in Co. Tipperary today (Monday, September 11).

Nitrates derogation

The deputy said that the “omission of agriculture from the party’s think-in agenda” sends an “alarming signal that Fianna Fáil’s commitment to supporting farmers is eroding rapidly”.

“This negligence is posing detrimental consequences for sectors including beef, sheep, and dairy, coupled with the relentless push to curtail fertiliser usage,” Deputy McGrath said.

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Deputy Mattie McGrath

Speaking after the protest and commenting that this government’s “consistent undermining and disrespect” towards farmers have reached new heights, the independent TD said today:

“The government has tunnel vision when it comes to climate change. They too often won’t take off their green-tinted glasses to see the broader impact, and that’s precisely what’s missing here.

“The severe emission reduction targets, threatening to shrink our herds, combined with the ever-expanding bureaucracy paint a bleak picture,” Deputy McGrath said.

He added that the minister’s “willingness to negotiate detrimental nitrates reductions” via a video call with the EU commissioner displays a “shocking lack of commitment to our farmers’ well-being”.

“This dismissive and laissez-faire approach towards our farmers is not just disgraceful; it’s unjust. These individuals have dedicated themselves to building their enterprises and supporting rural areas,” he said.