The Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, has commenced the process of review of the Nitrates Action Programme.
The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Simon Coveney confirmed the review has commenced prior to formal engagement with the European Commission with a view to having a new Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) in place by 2018 to run up to 2021.
Minister Coveney also confirmed that a request for a new nitrates derogation will be submitted to the Commission as part of the review process.
He said a full consultation process will be carried out in early 2017 as part of this review and any issues raised by stakeholders will be considered as part of that process.
Agreeing a new NAP before the end of 2017, and maintaining the derogation (which is currently availed of by almost. 7,000 farmers), is an important aspect of sustaining balanced growth in the rural economy.
The Nitrates Derogation is available to grassland farms on an individual basis. The derogation applies only to grazing livestock on the holding.
Farmers who wish to avail of the derogation have to make an annual application and farm in accordance with a fertiliser plan and the conditions set out below.
The Derogation allows the application of a higher amount of livestock manure than that provided for in the Nitrates Regulations (where the limit is 170kg of N per hectare per year from livestock manure) subject to certain conditions.
Successful applicants will be able to apply livestock manure in excess of 170kg/ha in accordance with their fertiliser plan and up to a maximum of 250kg/ha per year.
Minister Coveney also confirmed this week that the arrangement in Ireland's Nitrates Action Programme, as negotiated with the European Commission, whereby the intensive sectors (pig, poultry and mushroom composts) were allowed to apply manures in excess of crop requirement, expired at the end of 2016.
The arrangement was put in place in 2006 to assist the industry to comply with the regulations and has been moving the industry towards full compliance over the intervening 10 years.
However, the Minister said in order to allow time for all possible options to be explored during the forthcoming Nitrates Action Programme review, pig slurry imported in the closed period from 2017 and not applied by the year-end will be treated as inventory for application in the following year rather than being considered as applied in the year of importation.