“A [nitrates] derogation is not a guaranteed thing, but it is granted every four cycles of the Nitrates Action Programme”, according to Teagasc’s Ger Shorthall.
During his appearance on RTÉ Radio 1’s Countrywide programme, he told presenter Philip Boucher-Hayes, that so far, Ireland has always been successfully granted a derogation, but the conditions attached increase “effectively” every time.
“The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage have to submit a proposal as a nation, to which the EU either grants or refuses to grant a nitrates derogation.
He explained: “In the current iteration, there is a mid-term review, so rather than wait four years for our next plan to be put in place, there is an interim two-year review of that, and what is built into that review is a look at stocking rates.”
“The maximum stocking rate there allowed at the moment is 250kg/ha of organic N, which could potentially be reduced if water quality has not improved at the rate required.”
“There are very many farmers that could be impacted quite severely in the reduction in the total organic N loading allowed on our farms.”
“All farmers in derogation, for a start, probably could be under pressure to either drop production or increase their area that is being farmed. There is a significant pressure coming on there.”
Since the introduction of the Nitrates Directive in Ireland, there has been a “ramping up” and broadening of associated regulations.
He highlighted that “essentially water quality is every farmer’s business” now, as has always been the case, but it is being made “more and more obvious through regulation”.
“Every single farmer in the country, be it tillage, beef, sheep, or dairy production, has a role to play in making sure that we reduce the risk to water quality, so the latest changes in the regulations effectively bring every farmer, to some degree or other, into the Nitrates Directive.”
In his opinion, the biggest change introduced this year that may have “kind of flown under the radar” slightly is a soil testing requirement.
All arable land has to have a soil test for 2023 and this requirement is one of many outlined in this news article, penned by Alicia Temple.
Other farming news article on That’s Farming: