The European Union (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017, as amended, give legal effect in Ireland to the Nitrates Directive and to our Nitrates Action Programme. The Nitrates Directive requires all member states to define set periods when the land application of fertiliser, including slurry, is not allowed and in Ireland the closed season commenced on 15 October.
The closed periods for land application of fertiliser in Ireland were decided following extensive consultation and were discussed with farming bodies and the European Commission as Ireland introduced the Nitrates Action Programme. The provisions of the Regulations are underpinned by scientific research and good agricultural practice. The most recent scientific studies carried out on a diverse range of farm and soil types as part of Teagasc’s ongoing Agricultural Catchments Programme have provided further evidence in support of regulating spreading periods as an effective means of reducing nutrient losses to waters.
The closed period protects water from pollution by excessive fertilisers flowing from farmland into surface water and groundwater.
While there have been some challenging weather conditions across the country, particularly in August and September, and including conditions in counties Cavan and Monaghan, farmers are required to provide sufficient slurry storage. In the lead up to the start of the closed period in October 2019, my Department kept this issue under review – in close consultation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine - and it was considered that changes should not be made to the slurry spreading deadline.
In cases of animal welfare issues arising from tanks that have reached capacity, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine operates an animal welfare helpline Lo-call 076 1064408, along with a dedicated email address, AnimalWelfare@agriculture.gov.ie. Farmers contacting the helpline will be advised to provide details of animal welfare issues, their herd number and other relevant data.