Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 March 2018

IFA lobbies Europe to maintain nitrate opt-outs

Photo: Robert Jones
Photo: Robert Jones
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

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.

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The Government is reviewing its current nitrates plan, and will request a new derogation from the EU rules for its new plan, which will run from 2018-21.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is taking Ireland to court for its failure to properly treat urban waste water in 38 towns and cities across the country.

The case follows two warnings to the Government, in 2015 and 2016, to upgrade water infrastructure in Cork City, Waterford City, Dundalk and 35 other areas.

The bloc says the failure to treat the water can "put human health at risk and pollute lakes, rivers, soil, coastal and ground­water".

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