Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Questions (297)

Matt Carthy


297. Deputy Matt Carthy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the number of farms that will be affected by an increase in the excretion figure for a dairy cow from 85 kg of nitrogen to 89 kg of nitrogen by county; the overall impact expected from this move on overall nitrogen levels; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30606/20]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is the lead authority for the Nitrates Regulations (SI 605 2017). The purpose of these Regulations is to give effect to Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme for the protection of waters against pollution caused by agricultural sources. The set of measures in these regulations provides a basic level of protection against possible adverse impacts to waters arising from the agricultural sources.

A review of Ireland’s nitrates derogation was undertaken in 2019. The review examined further opportunities for derogation farmers to improve efficiencies and continue to reduce their environmental footprint with particular regard to water, climate, biodiversity and air quality. It is accepted that compliance of a higher standard is required from more intensive derogation farmers to ensure a greater level of environment efficiency is achieved. One of the conclusions of the review highlighted interalia, that “In addition, the Commission has requested Ireland to review some of the technical aspects of the Nitrates Action Programme and ........the annual excretion rates for livestock as per Table 6 of SI 605 2017 be reviewed based on most recent scientific research”

The current excretion rates for livestock are specified in Table 6 of Schedule 2 (Annex 1) of Statutory Instrument 605 of 2017. The excretion rates for livestock were last evaluated in 2003. In 2019, Teagasc reviewed the excretion rate for the Dairy Cow following the recommendations of the Review group.

The outcome of the review was that the most accurate excretion figure for the average Irish dairy cow is 89kgs of nitrogen. The impact of this change is a 5% increase in the level of livestock manure nitrogen produced by dairy cows in Ireland. This reflects the higher average milk yields that farmers are achieving now compared to when the figure was first calculated over 25 years ago.

All farmers are required to comply with stocking rate limits, 170kgs N/ha or in the case of derogation farmers 250 kgs N/ha. Farmers can comply with limits by reducing stock numbers, exporting slurry or renting extra land.

All farmers with dairy cows (approx 17,000) will be affected by this increase.