'EU would be right to revoke Ireland’s nitrates derogation' - An Taisce

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

An Taisce has said the EU would be right to revoke Ireland’s nitrates derogation.

In a heavily critical submission to the Department of Agriculture's review of the Derogation it has claimed that the derogation is propping up what it described as an 'unsustainable and environmentally damaging' Foodwise 2025 strategy.

It also claimed that intensive agriculture was putting Ireland in breach of multiple EU and international laws and agreements, and also said that it is one of the root causes of our recently declared climate and biodiversity emergency.

It went on to say that without drastic measures to reduce the pollution and ecological damage caused by the intensification of bovine farming on both derogation and non-derogation farms the future of Ireland’s nitrates derogation hangs in the balance.

Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce said sustainable intensification in an oxymoron.

"Herd reduction and agricultural diversification, as recommended in the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Climate Action (JOCCA) report, are the only way to protect the environment and avert climate breakdown in any meaningful way.

"Intensive bovine agriculture is the leading cause of water pollution, habitat and species loss, and ammonia and GHG emissions.

"The data prove that this intensive agricultural model is environmentally unsustainable, whatever way you look at it, and it will ultimately be the death knell for Irish habitats and wildlife," she said.

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"Given our environmental record, I believe the EU would be right to revoke Ireland’s nitrates derogation.

"How could they continue to sanction this breakneck pace of agricultural intensification once they see the resultant destruction of our wildlife, our waters and our climate," she asked.

The Department of Agriculture has just completed a public consultation on their nitrates derogation, as part of a review process.

'€900m in output'

IFA President Joe Healy said, the Department of Agriculture’s early mid-term review of the Nitrates derogation provides a real opportunity to support the sustainable development of a cohort of farmers who he said contribute over €900m in agricultural output in every county in Ireland and are a cornerstone of the future development of the sector.

The Association has also strongly rejected proposals by the Department of Agriculture to classify farms that are stocked at 1.5 dairy cows/ha as ‘intensive’, describing it as “an incorrect and deeply unfair perception of our family-owned and operated, grass-based farms, at a time of unprecedented and extraordinarily aggressive social media driven scrutiny of farming and food production systems”.

Thomas Cooney added, “Farmers are fully engaged in positive water, air and climate action, with farmers in derogation using resources such as phosphorous with increased efficiency. All of this action is contributing to falling emissions intensity in our livestock sector, strong demand for access to air quality improvement schemes such as LESS; as well as climate, biodiversity and water improvement schemes, such as GLAS”.

IFA has called on the Department of Agriculture to introduce a Sustainability Development Programme to support improved efficiency and to continue to reduce the environmental footprint of the sector.

IFA Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney called for the following measures:

  • Implementation of the Teagasc climate roadmap.
  • Increased funding and removal of VAT for low emissions slurry spreading equipment.
  • Supports for greater use of protected urea, lime, slurry additives and soil aeration technologies.
  • Support for anaerobic digestion and on-farm renewables.
  • Full recognition of the carbon sinks from forests, permanent pastures and hedgerows.
  • Greater use of organic manures on farms.

Online Editors


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