See the new Nitrates plan that could hit farmers in the pocket

ICMSA's Patrick Rohan
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Farmers could face significant extra costs from the new national Nitrates Action Plan.

The suggested measures include:

  • The exclusion of cattle from watercourses on farms with grassland stocking rates above 170kg N/ha
  •  The prevention of direct run-off from farm roadways to watercourses and lakes
  •  A proposal that water troughs and cattle drinking points should not be located within 20m of natural waters on farms with grassland stocking rates of above 170kg N/ha.

The proposed changes were included in the recommendations of an expert group on future measures to be included in country’s Nitrates Action Programme which was published on Friday.

The review also warned that the 85pc growth in food and drink exports envisaged in the Food Wise 2025 plan could not be achieved “at the expense of the environment” and that “an absolute commitment to the principles of sustainability” would be required from the farm sector.

The IFA’s Thomas Cooney said the review had “missed an opportunity” to address the inflexibility of farming by fixed dates.

"The proposal to restrict livestock access to waters, and require water-flow management on farm roadways will add further costs for farmers which will directly impact on the competitiveness of the sector," he maintained.

While Mr Cooney welcomed the increased phosphorous allowances for soils with P indices 1 and 2, he expressed concern regarding the obligations which linked addressing soil fertility to the Knowledge Transfer programme.

"The Knowledge Transfer (KT) programme has simply become too complex. Therefore, the recommendations of the expert group to link addressing the soil fertility issue with KT will add further complexity and may lead to the measure not being taken up," he said.

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ICMSA's Pat Rohan said that farmers would have very serious reservations about the thrust and the specifics of the report.

"We'll be looking at this in advance of a scheduled meeting with the Department of Agriculture, but it's already obvious that issues around roadways, access to water courses, changes to soil testing and the interaction with the Knowledge Transfer schemes will all require serious amendment if the plan is to move forward with any support," Mr Rohan said.

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