If water quality does not improve at the required rate, the permittable maximum stocking rate of 250 kgs of organic nitrogen per year under Ireland’s nitrates derogation could drop to 220 kg, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie Mc McConalogue has warned.
Ireland has been granted the derogation up to 2025, but a mid-term review will take place later this year (2023).
The minister has stated that “a nitrates derogation is not something that we are guaranteed”.
This statement was recently echoed by Teagasc’s Ger Shorthall, during his recent appearance on RTÉ Radio 1’s Countrywide programme, with presenter, Philip Boucher-Hayes, as reported by That’s Farming in this news article.
The minister previously said that the nitrates derogation provides farmers with an opportunity to farm at higher stocking rates without compromising water quality.
The nitrates derogation is subject to certain strict conditions designed to protect the environment and meet the requirements of the Nitrates Directive.
The minister explained: “We have to apply for it at European level. The standard stocking rate across Europe, which is a common market area, is 170 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare per annum.”
“A state can apply for a derogation, which other member states have to vote to give.”
“If a state gets that derogation, it means that it can stock at a rate of 250 kg of organic nitrogen per year,” he outlined.
“That is a challenge we have. If it drops to 220 kg, there is no doubt it would have a significant impact on some farmers.”
The minister made the remarks in response to a parliamentary question on a possible change to Ireland’s nitrates derogation from Independent TD, Danny Healy-Rae.
He warned that a reduction in the nitrates derogation to 220 kg of nitrogen per hectare would have a “significant” economic impact and “could potentially remove” €236 million from the rural economy.
Moreover, he stated that it would also threaten food security and increase the cost of food.
“Farms will become unviable. A farmer who now has 58 cows has been told that when the register comes into place and the derogation is changed, they will have to reduce their stock to 42 cows.”
“Their operation will become unviable. Will the Taoiseach and the Minister for Agriculture, Food, and the Marine deal with this? It is not fair.”
“It is not right for farmers or for consumers. The government is hurting both.”
Read That’s Farming’s article on banding rules: 3 options for farmers to confirm 2023 excretion rates
Previously, in this news article, That’s Farming, looked at nitrates derogation, what is involved, and what you should know if you are interested in farming at a higher stocking rate.
See more farming news on That’s Farming