2023 nitrates derogation applications can now be submitted.
The derogation allows farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate.
It is subject to certain strict conditions designed to protect the environment and meet the requirements of the Nitrates Directive.
"All farmers have an important role to play in protecting our environment, particularly those farming more intensively," Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said on Friday as he announced the opening of applications.
"It is crucial that we protect and restore our waters as soon as possible to maintain the nitrates derogation at current levels into the future.
The derogation is contingent on meeting water quality standards, and these measures are designed to protect water quality and, where appropriate, to also provide biodiversity benefits.
“I encourage more intensively stocked farmers to engage as soon as possible with this application process and to discuss the need for a derogation with their agricultural advisor,” Mr McConalogue added.
Dairy farmers who previously did not avail of the derogation are also strongly encouraged to consult with their agricultural advisor, due to the new excretion rate bands applicable for dairy cows from January 1, 2023.
The three bands applicable for dairy cows are: 80kg of nitrogen per cow, 92kg per cow, and 106kg of nitrogen per cow per year.
Previously all dairy cows were considered equal in terms of nutrient excretion rate at 89kg of nitrogen per cow per year.
To reflect differences in nutrient output as milk yield increases, from 2023 onwards, each dairy herd will be confirmed annually as being in one of the three bands based on the herd’s average milk yield per cow.
Applying for a derogation may assist these dairy farmers to comply with the limits set out in the Nitrates Regulations.
The Department of Agriculture will shortly write to farmers individually regarding the banding options applicable to their herd and the requirements around banding.
This will help farmers inform themselves to make important decisions in the year ahead, the department said.
The closing date for derogation applications is March 31, 2023.
Farmers who applied for a derogation in 2022 are also reminded they must submit fertiliser accounts for 2022 by the closing date of March 31.
Nitrogen and phosphorus statements for January to November 2022 (cattle only) are also now available to view on the department’s online system, agfood.ie.
The end-of-year statement will be published as soon as all data is available.
Some documentation submitted to the department after December 31, 2022, is not yet included; this will be processed in due course, the department said.