Q&A nitrogen limits: Do you need to submit December nitrates form?

In 2015, more than 1,600 farmers incurred penalties totalling €1.8m for breaches of the 170Kg of nitrates per hectare limit.

It is hugely important for individual farmers to check that they are not exposed in relation to this matter, says Patrick Rohan, chair of the ICMSA’s Farm and Rural Affairs Committee.

He has called on all farmers in excess of the 170kgs limit, and who do not have a derogation to do so, to be aware of the December 31, 2016 deadline for submission of relevant forms to the Nitrates Section of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Mr Rohan said farmers are incurring significant financial penalties year after year due to exceeding 170kg, and not applying for a derogation, or exporting slurry, or taking additional grazing.

Those farmers most likely to exceed the limit, based on the Department of Agriculture’s data, will have received a text message outlining their stocking rate at the end of October.

In addition, all farmers can view their nitrates and phosphorous statements at www.agfood.ie and farmers not already registered can log onto www.agfood.ie to do so.

Failure to return these records by December 31, 2016, will result in a penalty on farmers’ payments, where those individuals are over 170kg of N per hectare.

Mr Rohan called on the Department to immediately send out a final text message to farmers at risk of exceeding the limit.

How can farmers avoid exceeding stocking rate limits in the Nitrates regulations?

Farmers can avoid these penalties by taking action during the year.

Options include exporting slurry during the year to less intensively stocked farms or renting extra land, and submitting the appropriate forms to the Department.

Another option is monitoring their livestock numbers throughout the year, and reducing them where there is a risk of exceeding the limit.

All farmers who exported slurry, rented extra land or temporarily moved cattle to another holding must submit the appropriate forms as soon as possible (not later than December 31) to the Department’s Nitrates section, Johnstown Castle, Wexford.

How do I know if I am in danger of exceeding stocking rate limits?

The Department provides interim N and P statements informing farmers of their stocking rate from cattle to date.

Those farmers most likely to exceed the limit received a text message outlining their stocking rate to the end of October.

Any farmer unsure about their position should contact their local agricultural advisor, or the Department’s Nitrates section at 053-9163444. (To register a mobile phone number for future SMS text alerts, log on to https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/mobileupdates/ to access the sign-on form.)

If a herdowner does not have access to online or SMS text alert notification services, the interim N&P statements can be obtained from the Department’s Nitrates Section, Johnstown Castle, Wexford (053-9163444).

Why is there a nitrogen limit?

The EU Nitrates Directive, and Ireland’s National Nitrates Action Programme, limit the amount of nitrogen from livestock manure which may be applied to land each year, including by the animals themselves, to 170 kg per hectare.

What is a derogation?

On February 27, 2014, the EU Nitrates Management Committee renewed Ireland’s derogation, which enables farmers who meet strict conditions to increase this application limit to 250kg of nitrogen per hectare per annum.



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