Farm Ireland

Saturday 22 July 2017

Ministers meet in crucial nitrates action plan talks

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Tense talks are set to begin today between Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith and Minister for the Environment John Gormley on what Ireland will include in its new Nitrates Action Plan.

Recommendations from the Government-appointed Nitrates Expert Review Group were finalised yesterday and its report will be presented to the two ministers today, it is understood.

The ministers will assess the recommendations, before deciding what changes to make to the existing Nitrates Action Plan.

However, the pair have just five working days to agree on and prepare a new Nitrates Action Plan, ahead of the critical meeting of the EU Nitrates Committee, which takes place next Tuesday.

The meeting in Brussels is to decide if the 250kg organic nitrogen derogation should be allowed to continue.

Before that deadline, the ministers will have to decide on the Irish derogation for the dairy and livestock sectors, continuation of the phosphorous provision for the pig and poultry sector and increased nitrogen application rates for spring barley.

IFA president John Bryan has warned that a positive outcome in the nitrates review is critical to achieving the ambitious production targets set out in the Food Harvest 2020 report.

Mr Bryan warned that pig, poultry, dairy, livestock and grain producers would all be affected unless the Government secured a satisfactory outcome to address their fears about the nitrates review.


Teagasc, which is represented on the Expert Review Group, has come in for sharp criticism from the pig, poultry and tillage sectors in particular.

Mr Bryan urged the advisory and research body to "become more proactive in finding solutions to the concerns of the pig and poultry sectors and in securing viable husbandry standards for the spring barley sector".

Meanwhile, Teagasc senior research officer John Spink revealed that research is under way to investigate falling protein levels in malting barley and the nitrogen requirements of spring barley.

He was responding to questions from angry malting growers at the Teagasc tillage crops forum.

"Fifty percent of the malting barley in the country failed when Diageo changed the spec from 8.5pc to 9.3pc this year," claimed one grower.

"Something has to be done or we won't have Guinness in this country in few years."

Irish Independent