Farmers will continue to lobby the Government in the coming weeks to ensure Ireland retains its derogation on EU nitrates regulations.

IFA president Joe Healy this week led a delegation in meetings with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Local Government Minister Simon Coveney to set out farmers’ priorities in the EU’s forthcoming review of the nitrates regulations.

Joe Healy said: “Farmers have made a real contribution to an improved rural environment. Over €2bn has been spent on slurry storage and on ensuring farmyards are at the highest environmental standards. This has delivered a 92% reduction in rivers that are classified as seriously polluted.”

He said the actions are evidence farming is in line with the Food Wise 2025 sustainability goals. These green impacts also provide a platform for the review of the nitrates regulations to deliver progressive actions.

IFA environment chair Thomas Cooney, added: “IFA will work with ministers Creed and Coveney and the European Commission to safeguard the continuation of the nitrates derogation for the 7,000 farmers who will underpin the development of the sector over the coming years.

"In addition, government must review the disproportionate level of nitrates’ inspections that are imposed on farmers and work with the sector to deliver compliance and improved water quality, rather than just enforce penalties.”

Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture has reminded farmers that March 31 is the deadline for 2017 Nitrates Derogation applications, which can now be submitted online. Farmers are advised to contact their agricultural advisor to determine if they should avail of this facility.

“The Nitrates Derogation gives farmers a chance to farm at higher stocking rates, subject to conditions designed to protect the environment and meet the requirements of the Nitrates Directive,” said Mr Creed.

He said the derogation is a vital facility for intensive farmers. Some 7,000 intensively stocked farms availed of the derogation in 2016. The online system aims to simplify the application process and help farmers avoid fines.

Farmers can also comply by managing their livestock numbers, exporting enough slurry/farmyard manure or renting additional land.

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