IFA lobbies Europe to maintain nitrate opt-outs
The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) is lobbying furiously for the EU to approve opt-outs for intensive farmers from the bloc's nitrates limits, and to relax penalties for breaching the rules.
The EU sets livestock manure nitrogen limits of 170kg per hectare, which can be upped to 250kg under certain conditions.
Farmers can apply for the upper limit as long as 80pc of their livestock is grazing and they have a fertiliser plan and have done a recent soil analysis.
Last year, over 6,800 intensively stocked farmers availed of the derogation. The IFA wants that level maintained this year.
IFA President Joe Healy says farmers have made a "real contribution to an improved rural environment", for example, by slurry storage. But the European Commission said in a recent report that Ireland needed to do more to protect water supplies and comply with EU environmental laws.
It said the Government's planned 50pc boost in milk production by 2020 represented "an additional challenge" for controlling nitrate limits.
The IFA also wants the EU to review what it says is a "disproportionate level of nitrates inspections" on farmers.
Farmers can apply for derogations on the nitrate limits from now until the end of March.