Fertiliser and feed inputs have to be cut, warns senior inspector
Reduction in stocking rates on intensive livestock farms will not be immediately required to counter falling water quality levels, a senior Department of Agriculture official has said.
However, he warned that feed and fertiliser usage will have to be reduced, and that farmers must tackle nitrates losses off farms.
Jack Nolan, who is a senior inspector with responsibility for nitrates and biodiversity with the Department, said that increased problems with nitrates would have to be tackled for Ireland to protect its Nitrates Derogation.
The Department has confirmed that a review of the derogation conditions will take place this year to allow farmers with derogations time to plan ahead.
At a recent Department briefing for agricultural consultants, senior officials pointed out that the latest EPA report indicated that water quality in the country's rivers and lakes had deteriorated by 3pc.
Ammonia emissions — 98pc of which come from farming — breached agreed limits in 2016 and are expected to do so again when the results are released for 2017 and 2018.
Mr Nolan told the Farming Independent that an expert group comprising officials from the departments of Agriculture and Housing, as well as the EPA and Teagasc, will draw up recommendations on a series of additional measures to be adopted by derogation farmers from 2020.
Restrictions on the use of hill land by intensive dairy farmers to ‘dilute’ stocking rates and facilitate increased fertiliser usage are expected to be considered under this process.