Irish Government seeks Nitrogen derogation

IRELAND IS to seek a derogation allowing its farmers to spread up to 250kg/ha of organic nitrogen, well above the 170kg/ha stipulated in the Nitrates Directive and more than the 230kg/ha recommended by an independent arbiter.

Confirmation of the higher rate came on the same day the Dublin government submitted its basic nitrates action programme to Brussels for approval. “This is a milestone for the development of Irish agriculture and the protection of the environment,” said environment minister Dick Roche.

 The new programme contains many of the recommendations made last month by former Kerry Group boss Denis Brosnan who was employed by government as an independent adviser.

These include dividing the country into three zones, with different slurry storage and spreading restrictions for each.

If approved, farms in Zone A, covering the southern counties of Cork, Waterford, Wexford and South Tipperary, will have to provide at least 16 weeks” storage capacity. Spreading will be banned between Oct 15 and Jan 2, starting in 2007.

Farms in Zone B, covering most of the rest of the country, will also have to provide 16 weeks” capacity and will not be allowed to spread slurry from Oct 15 to Jan 15.

But farms in Zone C – Cavan, Leitrim and Monaghan – will have to have 20 weeks” slurry storage and will be prevented from spreading between Oct 1 and Jan 31.

While the basic action programme contains a commitment to limit organic fertiliser to 170kg/ha of nitrogen from Jan 1, 2006, Mr Roche said an application for a derogation allowing up to 250kg/ha was being made.

“The scientific case in support of the application is being finalised, with a view to submitting it to the EU Commission early in November.”

This application rate compares with the 230kg/ha recommended by Mr Brosnan, which would have forced many dairy farmers to either destock or take on extra land.

A department of environment spokesman said 250kg/ha had already been promised by the government under its Sustaining Progress agreement with farmers and should be honoured.