The deadline for applications for the nitrates derogation has been extended. The decision to extend the closing date to Thursday 13th April 2017 was taken in light of the significant interest in new Derogation applications.
Nitrates Derogation applications can only be submitted online using the Department’s on-line facilities. Farmers not already registered for agfood.ie can do so by logging onto www.agfood.ie and clicking the 'Register' button.
Many farmers are having problems staying within the nitrates directives. Figures from 2015 have revealed that 1,921 farmers were sanctioned in 2016 for exceeding nitrates limits. The normal limit for kilograms of nitrates (N) per hectare is 170. Under derogation farmers can put out up to 210kg N/ha. 13.7% of those penalised recorded between 210-250kg N/ha while 18.9% exceeded 250g N/ha. 31% of sanctions were on farmers without derogation who recorded between 170-180kg N/ha.
About a fifth of inspected farms had nitrates derogations, 600 out of 3,011 inspections carried out. 7,000 farms applied for derogation in 2016. Local authorities have jurisdiction over enforcing nitrates directives and it has emerged that they have varied approaches. Some work with farmers to achieve compliance, an approach the IFA wants to see encouraged. On Wednesday morning IFA president Joe Healy met with Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Simon Coveney to discuss and to question the inspections.
Healy said he had called for a roll-over of nitrates calculations to get a three-year average: “A farmer might be slightly over in a calendar year, incurring an automatic penalty, but be well under the limit in the years on either side. Mr Healy said this averaging system could be used for both nitrogen and phosphorus. “I also highlighted the situation of pig and poultry farmers, following the discontinuation of the transitional arrangements for phosphorus calculation from pig slurry and poultry manure. The IFA is asking that derogation farmers be allowed to import organic fertiliser, and for a simpler method of P calculation,” he added.
The nitrates directives are designed to protect groundwater from nitrogen run-off. High levels of nitrogen results in excessive plant growth in rivers and lakes, especially algae. This blocks light from reaching the bottom affecting various life forms and reducing the waterway's diversity. Algal blooms result in eutrophication as oxygen is used up, which restricts the number of fish species able to survive.
The nitrates derogation documentation can be found on the Departments website.