Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue and Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien have said that farmyard manure that is currently appropriately stored on land can remain in place over the closed spreading period.
This is conditional on the manure being kept in a compact heap at appropriate distances from water, and that it is not spread during the closed period.
Under the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) for the Protection of Waters Regulations, farmyard manure can’t be stored on land from November 1 until mid-January, and in the case of counties Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim and Monaghan, until January 31.
However, arising from the exceptionally wet summer and autumn this year, there are many farmers who have been unable to spread farmyard manure without doing significant damage to soil structure.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the risk of damage to the soil and associated risks to water quality outweighs the risk to water quality if the farmyard manure remains in a compact heap that is appropriately located, given current soil conditions.
The exemption from the rule only applies to existing heaps of farmyard manure that are currently stored on land in an appropriate location, respecting setback distances from water, that ensures there is no risk of run-off or seepage, directly or indirectly, into groundwaters or surface waters.
Such manure should remain in a compact heap until the end of the closed period next January. At that point it can remain stored on the land in accordance with the regulations until there is a suitable opportunity for land spreading.
Where farmyard manure remains in dungsteads, or other suitable farmyard facilities, it should remain there until the end of the closed period.
If storage capacity in such facilities becomes an issue before the end of the closed period, the department advises farmers to engage with their local authority to discuss the most appropriate way to deal with the situation.
Minister McConalogue commented: “The nature of farmyard manure limits the opportunities for spreading. The wet weather this summer and autumn meant many farmers could not spread farmyard manure without the risk of severe damage to soil structure.”
Minister O’Brien said: “This limited exemption from the regulations will apply this winter as a once-off measure in response to the very difficult weather conditions, especially over recent weeks.”
Both ministers said that appropriate sanctions would apply where a farmer is found to have stored farmyard manure inappropriately or to have spread it during the closed period.
This decision follows on from engagement between both Minister McConalogue’s and Minister O’Brien’s departments with the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).
It is understood that representatives from the IFA’s Environment Committee, which is chaired by Paul O’ Brien, had engaged with officials from both departments in recent days on the issue.