Farm Ireland

Saturday 21 July 2018

Flexibility given to farmers for slurry spreading season - but be prepared to be inspected

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

The Department of Agriculture has said that while it cannot extend the slurry spreading season, despite calls to do so from a number of quarters, it has announced that it will give some flexibility to farmers.

The prohibited slurry spreading period begins this weekend and, despite the calls, the Minister and his Department have both been steadfast in there position that the closed period cannot be altered.

Both say that EU Directives requires all member states to define set periods when the land application of fertiliser is not allowed.

The Department also says findings from the Agricultural Catchments Programme (ACP) operated by Teagasc support the current closed periods in Ireland.

A key message from the research, it says is that there are disproportionately high nutrient losses to waters during the winter and the current closed period coincides with the time during which risks of incidental nutrient losses to water are highest.

Farmers are advised to spread slurry early in the season when growth and nutrient uptake are at their peak.

The Department has said that it is recognised that there may be some potential concerns for animal welfare arising from heavy rainfall in specific parts of the country (the north west in particular) and farmers with such concerns are advised to contact the Nitrates Section of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine at 053 9163444 or by emailing with details of the flooding/trafficability situation, their herd number and other relevant data.

Such contact should be made by Saturday, October 14 at the latest as the closed period commences on Sunday, October 15.

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Farmers wishing to avail of such flexibility will be advised:

1.            To spread only that volume of slurry necessary to ensure adequate storage capacity for the remainder of the closed period

2.            That any spreading should occur as soon as good spreading conditions exist

3.            That they will be prioritised for inspection by Local Authorities in the immediate future to ensure compliance with the Nitrates Regulations

4.            That assessment of overall on-farm storage capacity may be part of that inspection process

5.            That the Nitrates Section DAFM will subsequently contact the farmers to ascertain and record the date(s) on which this additional spreading takes place.

Local Authority inspection reports will be returned to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government  and shared with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and those farms needing to avail of this flexibility will become a priority category for inspections in future years also.

However, the President of ICMSA has said that the prioritisation for local authority inspection of those applying for such an extension is not right and grossly unfair and heaps additional pressure on those farmers already struggling with very adverse weather condition.

John Comer said that was understood at all levels that certain parts of the country have had particularly wet weather since mid-summer to a degree that had made normal farming practices almost impossible.

He said that two Government departments concerned should just recognise this fact and allow farmers spread slurry without the implied threat of an inspection.

Finally, both Departments stressed the importance of farmers ensuring that safety is their number one priority as toxic gases are released when slurry is agitated and one breath at this time can cause instant death.

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