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Nitrates Action Review

The mid-term review of the Nitrates Derogation will result in tighter controls, with a range of new measures entering into force in the Autumn. The review process was led by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

The new requirements will affect over 7,000 farmers currently operating under the derogation, which allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate and a further 5,000 farmers over the 170kg/N/ha livestock manure limit but currently exporting slurry to comply with the limit.

The fourth nitrates action plan is in place until the end of 2021, with EU Commission approval needed for the derogation to continue after 2021. 

Recommendations of the Nitrates Expert Group:

  1. Farms with a whole farm stocking rate above 170 kg/N/ha will have to comply with new slurry spreading rules. Slurry remaining on the holding after 15th April 2020 must be spread by low emission spreading equipment, while all slurry on the holding from 12th January 2021 must be spread by low emission spreading equipment.
  2. Compulsory adoption of a farm scale liming programme on all farms with a stocking rate above 170kgs/N/ha in 2020.
  3. All farms must submit export forms for slurry movements earlier each calendar year, starting in 2020.
  4. A derogation farmer will have to record through appropriate software technology the grass produced annually on the farm or undertake grassland measurement training. This is recommended to come into place in 2020 or 2021. Additionally, all grass reseeding completed by derogation farmers from 2020 must include a minimum clover content.
  5. Commonage/rough grazing will not be eligible for derogation from 2020.
  6. Crude protein in concentrate feeds for grazing livestock to be reduced on farms with a stocking rate greater than 170 kgs/N/ha.
  7. Derogation farms will have to adopt a biodiversity measure from the All Island Pollinator Plan.

Additionally, the Nitrates Expert Group recommends that the following proposals need to be considered further in the context of the negotiations on the next nitrates action plan after 2021.

  • The use of inhibitor technology to reduce greenhouse gas and ammonia losses from fertilisers.
  • Further review of intensively stocked dairy grazing platforms and their impact at a catchment scale.
  • Actions to reduce the environmental impact of farms operating at a stocking rate greater than 130 kgs/N/Ha.
  • Additional measures to support biodiversity on all farms.
  • Technical aspects and definitions related to the annual excretion rates for livestock and the average net rainfall during the storage period.

A summary of the derogation review can be viewed here: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/ruralenvironment/environment/nitrates/2019/derogationforms/SummaryDerogationMeasuresMLU240719.pdf

Eamonn Farrell – Agri Food Policy Executive