In accordance with the Nitrates Directive, Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme is due for review this year and this is currently under way. As part of the review a public consultation process was initiated and closed on 12 June 2013. All submissions received on foot of this consultation are being considered by myself and my colleague the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It is intended that the review process, including legislative amendments if any, will be completed before the end of this year. It would be inappropriate to anticipate any outcomes of the review process in advance of its conclusion.
However, it should be noted that set closed periods for the spreading of fertilisers, including slurry, are a mandatory requirement of the Nitrates Directive. The purpose of closed periods is to protect ground and surface water bodies, including drinking water sources, by prohibiting the application of fertilisers when such application poses an unacceptable risk to water courses. Good agricultural practice involves the application of fertilisers as early as practicable in the growing season in order to maximise the uptake of nutrients by crops and to minimise pollution to water.