Ireland’s nitrates derogation provides farmers an opportunity to farm at higher stocking rates, above 170 kg livestock manure nitrogen/ ha, subject to additional conditions designed to protect the environment. The derogation is an important facility for more than 7,000 farmers. Derogation farmers make up 6% of bovine farmers, 11% of the land area but have 20% of the bovine livestock herd. There has been a significant expansion in land area covered by the derogation of almost 35% since 2014.
In addition, a further 5,000 farmers with 13% of the national bovine herd, farm above the 170 kg livestock manure nitrogen/ha limit but export slurry to comply with the limit rather than applying for a derogation.
Recent EPA reports have highlighted deterioration in water quality and increasing green house gas and ammonia emissions. There are also significant issues around the decline of EU protected habitats in Ireland. However, we know that there opportunities to reduce the impact of these farms on the environment.
In light of the increasing land area being farmed under derogation and the environmental pressures outlined, it was considered prudent and important to the longer term retention of this important facility to review the conditions of the Nitrates derogation. Ireland's current derogation concludes in 2021, and failing to address the environmental pressures above, would negatively impact on any negotiations to renew this important facility. As part of this review, a public consultation was held and 75 submissions were received.
The Nitrates expert group which is composed of officials from the EPA, Teagasc, Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and my Department is currently considering these submissions. My colleague, Minister Murphy and I expect to receive the groups recommendations shortly.