The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, has warned that an Interim review of the Nitrates Action Program (NAP) “may” identify further areas that will have to move from the current maximum derogation stocking rate.
Earlier this year the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published a water quality review which included a “red map” showing areas draining into a nitrates directive monitoring point where water quality was poor, or where worsening trends occurred over the period 2022 compared to 2021.
Under Ireland’s current nitrates derogation the maximum derogation stocking rate must reduce in these areas to 220 kg nitrogen per hectare (N/ha) from the start of 2024.
According to Minister McConalogue Ireland is now shortly to complete an Interim review of the NAP “as required by the European Commission, addressing actions that farmers can take to improve water quality”.
He added: “Part of that process will include an Appropriate Assessment that must be completed as part of this interim review of the NAP and which maybe identify further areas that will have to move from the current maximum derogation stocking rate of 250kg N/ha” .
Minister McConalogue said that “to allow an appropriate lead time”, any land that is impacted by that process “will only be subject to the lower limit with effect from January 2025”.
“My department will communicate in due course with any potentially impacted farmers when the outcome of that Appropriate Assessment process is known,” the minister added.
He had set out details of the Interim review of the NAP while responding to a parliamentary question tabled by the Independent TD for Cork South-West, Michael Collins,
Deputy Collins had asked the minister if the “government’s agreed decision on derogation” would not “be as severe as anticipated” for west Cork farmers.
In response Minister McConalogue said: “In Cork, in particular, there is a mix of land that will remain at the current maximum derogation stocking rate of 250kg and land that will move to the lower maximum stocking rate of 220kg N/ha.
“My department is currently categorizing all land parcels with a view to shortly writing to individual farmers to set out their position based on land declared this year.”
The minister also told Deputy Collins that the letter would “outline that following consultation with the Ag Water Quality Working Group, the derogation stocking limit of 220 or 250kg N/ha will apply on a parcel-by-parcel basis”.