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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘No prospect’ of changing decision on Ireland’s nitrates derogation

EU Commissioner for the Environment, Mr. Virginijus Sinkevičius, has ruled out revisiting Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation decision.

Sinkevičius has, in a statement, confirmed that there is “no prospect” of re-opening the current commission decision conferring a derogation from standard Nitrates Directive rules in Ireland.

The EU’s Nitrates Directive permit the use of a maximum of 170 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare.

The directive allows for a time-limited derogation from these rules in certain circumstances.

At present, Ireland’s derogation permits the use of up to 250 kg per hectare on derogation farms.

These more intensively stocked farms apply a range of additional measures beyond standard requirements to mitigate the risk to water quality.

Ireland’s current derogation is due to expire on January 1st, 2026, and the derogation limit is due to be reduced to 220 kg/ha on January 1st, 2024, in certain areas, because the latest water quality results have not shown sufficient improvement.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has met with the EU Commissioner this week to discuss the matter.

McConalogue said that he put forward a “strong case to Commissioner Sinkevicius for the retention of Ireland’s 250 kg/ha derogation until the next review”.

In doing so, he referred to Ireland’s unique, grass-based agricultural system, measures farmers had already taken to improve water quality, and the need for additional time to see the results of these measures in our water quality indicators.

Ireland’s Nitrates Derogation

The commissioner made it clear that Ireland is one of only three remaining member states with a derogation while stressing that there is “no prospect of re-visiting the current decision”.

According to Minister McConalogue, it may be possible to make “some very minor adjustments to the current mapping based on scientific parameters, but these are unlikely to affect the vast majority of derogation farmers”.

“My DAFM will be examining this over the next few weeks and engaging with the Agriculture Water Quality Stakeholders Working Group in this regard.”

The minister went on to say that “it is critical now that derogation farmers, with the help of their advisors, make the necessary arrangements to manage their holdings within the derogation limits applying from January 1st, 2024, next year”.

“My department will be issuing N and P Statements to farmers shortly to assist in that task.”

“In the meantime, we must continue to do everything we can to improve water quality, so that we can make a credible case for the renewal of the derogation in 2026,” he concluded.

In a previous article on, Minister McConalogue warned that “a nitrates derogation is not something that we are guaranteed”.

Previously, in this news articleThat’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.

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