What farmers need to know about the nitrates derogation review

A review of the conditions of the nitrates derogation is set to commence once the deadline for 2019 derogation applications close on March 31 next.

According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine the outcome of the review – including recommendations – will be published in June allowing derogation farmers sufficient time to plan for the 2020 year.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the department said, nitrates derogation provided farmers with an opportunity to farm at higher stocking rates, subject to certain conditions designed to protect the environment, while at the same time “meeting the requirements of the Nitrates Directive”.

The derogation is an important facility for more intensive farmers.

The spokesperson added: “The online system is aimed at simplifying the application process and assisting farmers to avoid penalties.

“Farmers can also remain compliant with the regulations by managing their livestock numbers, exporting slurry/farmyard manure or by renting additional land.”

Derogation review

Late last year Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed announced a review of the derogation’s conditions for 2019.

He said the review was necessary to ensure “the sustainable continuation of the derogation”.

A review will examine further opportunities for derogation farmers to improve efficiencies and continue to reduce their environmental footprint.

He continued: “It is expected the outcome of this review – including recommendations – will be published in June.”

This, added the minister, would also allow derogation farmers sufficient time to plan for the 2020 year.

“I would encourage more intensively stocked farmers to engage early with this application process and discuss the need for a derogation with their agricultural advisor,” he said.

Derogation incentives

According to the department, close to 7,000 “intensively stocked farmers” availed of derogation in 2018.

These farmers engaged in soil sampling and nutrient management planning.

The spokesperson continued: “Farmers also comply with an increased inspection regime in order to ensure they are farming to a high environmental standard.”

Meanwhile, the department pointed out that derogation is an important facility for “more intensive farmers” – particularly those in the dairy sector.

It went on to highlight the importance of maintaining the derogation’s environmental credentials.

Almost 7,000 intensively stocked farmers with an agricultural area of 466,000ha availed of the derogation in 2018.

The spokesperson concluded: “This is a marked increase in both the area and the number farming under derogation since 2014.”