The All-of-Government Plan to tackle climate breakdown identifies 34 priority actions for the Agriculture reflecting our three pillar policy approach to achieving carbon neutrality without comprising sustainable food production through:
1. Reducing agricultural emissions;
2. Increasing carbon removal or sequestration; and
3. Displacing and substituting fossil fuel and energy intensive materials.
While the target for the agriculture sector in the Plan is challenging, immediate action and early adoption is key. My Department has recently published a draft roadmap setting out action targets for delivery of these and other commitments and this is currently in public consultation. As part of the roadmap, actions are included to lower nitrogen fertiliser use and to facilitate a switch from calcium ammonium nitrate to protected urea across the farming sector.
From a regulatory perspective, my Department has been working to enhance the framework for nitrogen management on farms through the Nitrates Action Programme (in conjunction with DPHLG) through the new collaborative approach for improved implementation and a focus on soil fertility for better nutrient use efficiency. Opportunities for fertiliser reductions on farms through better grassland management have also been included while seeking co-benefits for other climate and environmental challenges.
A 'voluntary' review by my Department during 2019 of the Nitrates Derogation focussed on improving nitrogen use efficiency on our more intensive farms and the measures recommended by an expert panel will be introduced from January 2020. These included nitrogen use efficiency and greater implementation of trailing shoe technology for slurry application on these more intensive farms.
There are a range of measures and actions that are already contributing positively which will be built on. These improvements have been supported by CAP which will continue to be strongly targeted towards environmental benefits.
I would encourage farmers and stakeholders to fully participate in the public consultation process on our draft roadmap for implementation of these actions. The consultation will end on Friday 10th January 2020.