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The EU has announced a revision and significant widening of the scope of the Industrial Emissions Directive.

The Commission has proposed that cattle farms with over 150 livestock units will be subject to environmental licensing permits in the future.

Currently, the directive applies to larger pig and poultry farms with over 40,000 places for poultry and 2,000 places for pigs. Typically, these farms must apply for a license from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to operate as well to comply with a number of actions aimed at reducing methane and ammonia emissions.

The European Commission is proposing revising the scope of Directive to now also include cattle farms with over 150 Livestock units. This equates to on average 100 cows plus young stock on a dairy farm.

One of the most alarming elements of the proposal is that these farms are being termed “agro-industrial installations”, although at such a low threshold the scope primarily includes normal, economically viable family run dairy farms.

The selection of such a low threshold and use of loaded language not only demonstrates a poor understanding of the reality of farming in the EU but also dangerously threatens our family farming structures and also disparages efforts to encourage economic and environmental sustainability by comparing a 100-cow herd to an industrial installation.

Analysis commissioned by the European Commission highlights the negative economic and administrative impacts of the proposal for the cattle sector with relatively weak environmental benefits in return, compared to setting the threshold at 600 or even 300 LSU (which would have a lower economic and administration burden while maintaining a large proportion of the environmental benefits).

This draft Directive is now being debated within the European Parliament and Council, where this threshold will be hotly debated. ICOS will be asking our MEPs and Minister for Agriculture to question this language of “agro-industrial installations” and the benefits of the new threshold which will force thousands of family farms to comply with an unnecessary and burdensome licensing process, designed primarily for large industrial companies.

Once the final text has been negotiated and approved by the Parliament and Council, EU countries will have 18 months to transpose the directive into national legislation. After that, the operating rules and a new and simplified permit application process will be developed for farms by the EPA. Farms are expected to have to comply and request licence approval from 2027 onwards.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive