ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, outlines how he believes nitrates regulations proposals “miss the balance they have to hit and must be changed”.
While some aspects of the new nitrates regulations are unproblematic and will progress issues, several aspects are unnecessarily harsh.
They seem aimed at that group of dairy, livestock and tillage farmers who backbone our food exports and rural economy.
The areas that will attract legitimate criticism from farmers include:
- A ban on slurry spreading after September 15th;
- Also, a ban on spreading soil water between November 15th and January 15th;
- The reduction in chemical N allowances;
- A proposed ‘banding’ of dairy cows in a way that will penalise farmers with high-yielding dairy cows.
Costs and destock
These proposals have the potential to inflict substantial costs on farmers and will also mean that some farmers could be forced to destock – with the massively negative implications for farmer incomes and the rural economy that involves.
These aspects will have to be reviewed and recognition given to the practical realities of farming.
The nitrates regulations had to start with twin aims – both of which were equally valid and worthy.
We have to lower the presence of nitrates in watercourses. We have to keep the commercial dairy, livestock and tillage sectors going and, specifically, the commercial family farm.
Those aims are not incompatible; it is possible to do both.
But ICMSA would feel that that requires a balance of consideration and weight that is, we regret to say, not achieved in these regulations. These nitrates regulations miss that balance that they have to hit.
Farmers are already addressing water quality issues. They are committed to the solutions, but the government needs to support them in this process.
We all know that overregulation that does not reflect the practicalities of farming will not work.
It is equally clear that aspects of the new Nitrate Regulations are an example of exactly this overregulation and will prove ineffective in exactly the usual way.
ICMSA will be making a submission based on practical amendments to the regulations that will ensure water quality is addressed while ensuring that family farms can continue to farm in an economically and environmentally sustainable way.