Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 18 November 2017

Calendar farming on Nitrates hit list

Farm bodies to target 'unworkable' rules in talks with Department

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

UNWORKABLE calendar farming rules will be targeted by farm organisations in a major review of the Nitrates Action Plan, set to commence this week.

Stringent slurry spreading rules that cost the dairy sector €2.3m per day in 2009 and a permanent lifting of the ban on winter ploughing are among the main issues that will be addressed.

A draft Nitrates Action Plan, produced by officials from the Department of Agriculture and from the Department of the Environment, is expected to be published in the coming days. The mandatory review will include several weeks consultation with farmer representatives, Teagasc and other stakeholders.

Unrealistic calendar farming, winter ploughing, phosphorous rules for pig and poultry farmers, and sterilisation of land due to buffer zones have been highlighted as priority areas by IFA environment chairman Pat Farrell.

"Pressure to spread slurry in the days before the closed period last year meant dairy farmers could not graze off paddocks and were forced to feed additional silage and concentrates," he said.

The total cost of the slurry rules was estimated at €2.10 per cow, or a staggering €2.3m per day for the dairy sector.

The imposition of excessive buffer zones around water abstraction points is also costing farmers dearly, according to the IFA chairman. Buffer zones, the size of which are decided by local authorities, mean a loss of yield, income drops and devaluation of land for the farmer.

"In one case, Laois Co Council imposed a 300m buffer zone that resulted in 11ac of land being sterilised for one of the farmers," explained Mr Farrell. "Between income loss and property devaluation, that buffer zone cost the farmer €50,000."

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Farm organisations will also campaign for a continuation of phosphorous concessions for pig and poultry slurry.

Under the current concessions, pig and poultry units can export slurry to neighbouring farms. The importing farms must adhere to specified nitrogen limits but can exceed the phosphorous limits.

However, if the concession was abolished, pig and poultry units would be forced to export slurry over greater distances, at a huge cost.

"The figures show that, for every extra 5km added to the export of slurry, it would cost €5m in transport to the industry," said Mr Farrell.

Tillage farmers will be campaigning for a permanent lifting of the ban on winter ploughing, given that Teagasc research has given it the green light. The issue of phosphorous balance is also likely to be addressed, with the suggestion that farm organisations will request the introduction of a three-year rolling average.

Nitrogen application rates for tillage crops, particularly spring barley, will also be on the agenda. An expert Teagasc committee, headed by Dr Rogier Shulte, is currently preparing a submission for the action plan review.

Irish Independent