AN advisory group on the review of the nitrates regulations has been set up by Government ministers Brendan Smith (agriculture) and John Gormley (environment).
It will review the submissions received in response to a public consultation process on Ireland’s second Nitrates Action Programme, and advise the two ministers accordingly.
The consultation process closed on July 23 and it is intended the expert group will make its recommendations by mid-September.
Senior scientific experts from both departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and Teagasc comprise the group. It is chaired jointly by the department’s former secretaries general John Malone and Niall Callan.
Both the Irish Farmers Association and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association yesterday outlined their views on what form the proposed changes should take at a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
The nitrates directive requires that farmers avoid practices which create a risk of pollution to lakes and rivers from agricultural sources such as fertiliser and manure.
It also places restrictions on the times of year when farmers can plough land. Farmers’ organisations have criticised these stipulations on the grounds that they reduce yield and increase cost.
Committee chairman Séan Fleming TD said the directive has had major implications for the way farmers have to go about their business.
It dictates when land can and cannot be cultivated, the application of fertilisers and minimum distances from water sources.
Some farmers have complained that the regulations are too restrictive and mean they are not allowed to farm based on the best ground conditions. Since the nitrates directive was introduced several years ago, there has been a significant improvement in water quality brought about by investment by farmers and state bodies.
Mr Fleming said he fully supports the farmers in their objective to move away from calendar farming.
IFA president John Bryan said over €2.5 billion has been spent in improving farm yards and farm buildings to comply with the nitrates regulations.
“This is showing very positive results, with all EPA water monitoring sites conforming to nitrates water quality criteria,” he said.
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