Nitrates review must support sustainable growth
current review of the Nitrates Regulations is an opportunity to address
poor soil fertility on farms, which, if left unchecked will limit Irish
agriculture’s ability to reach its growth targets, IFA President Joe
Healy today (Tues) told a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on
Healy said, low farm incomes and heavy regulatory activities have
contributed to a reduction in fertiliser use and a decline in soil
levels in recent years. He reported to the Committee that just 10% of
grassland soil samples, and 12% of tillage samples show overall good
fertility, while two-thirds of soils nationally have a sub-optimal pH
status, indicating a requirement for lime on most
IFA President said, “The current review of the rules surrounding the
use and management of nitrogen and phosphorous
on Irish farms provides a real opportunity to reverse decades of
declining soil fertility levels and ensure Ireland’s farming sector is
well positioned to sustainably grow agri-food exports over the next
decade to almost €20b and to create 23,000 jobs in the
IFA believes chief priorities in the review must be the continuation of both the derogation for the dairy and livestock
sector and the transitional arrangements for pig and poultry farmers.
Joe Healy said, “Less than 5% of farmers in Ireland avail of the nitrates derogation. However, these farmers represent
a cohort of progressive farmers who will
underpin the development of the sector in the coming years, and are
making farm management decisions today on the legitimate expectation
derogation will continue” He said it is worth noting that these derogation
farmers endure increased compliance obligations, administrative burdens and face a greater likelihood of being inspected.
call by IFA for the continuation of the transitional arrangements for
pig and poultry farmers is mainly due to the failure to develop a
bio-energy policy and supports, in particular in relation to anaerobic
digestion. Joe Healy said to avoid imposing thousands of Euros of
haulage costs on pig and poultry farmers, the transitional arrangements
must be extended, at least until the long–awaited
renewable heat incentive is introduced.
Healy said the inflexibility of the calendar farming regime when it
comes to fertiliser spreading is at the front of farmers’ minds again
year, with farm families, particularly in the west and north-west,
struggling to farm the land due to the exceptional weather this year. He
said more flexibility must be shown to ensure farmers who want to do
the right thing are not penalised.
IFA President also called for a lime investment programme to be
introduced to support the rebuilding of fertile soils. This must be
by more open access to Teagasc’s nutrient management planning tools to
maximise adoption of best practice.
Concluding, Joe Healy said the farming community is well positioned to continue to play its part in Ireland’s recovery. However, vital policy support to deliver sustainable growth is required across all sections of Government and it is time to ensure that this review plays its part.