Cork farms worst-hit by nitrates limit cut

Cork farms worst-hit by nitrates limit cut

Aerial Photo of Massey Ferguson 390T Tractor and Abbey Tanker spreading manure slurry in a field. Picture: Ballygally View Images / iStock

In Co Cork, 434 holdings had a whole farm stocking rate greater than 220kg of N/ha in 2022, and have at least some land (according to their 2023 BISS application) affected by the reduced Nitrates Derogation stocking rate upper limit in 2024.

Nationally, 2,096 farmers are in this position, and are therefore likely to see their maximum organic nitrogen usage reduce from 250kg to 220kg of livestock manure nitrogen per hectare from next January.

However, the outcome will not be clear until full-year stocking rate information for 2023 is available in the new year.

In the meantime, farmers are to get letters from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine which will indicate if they are affected by the nitrates derogation stocking rate restriction.

After Cork, Tipperary has the second highest number of farmers affected, with 345 higher than 220 kg per hectare in 2022, and with at least some land declared this year in the area affected, as shown in the implementation map published by DAFM on October 3 of areas that must move to a maximum derogation stocking rate of 220kg (from 250kg).

However, the map requires uploading a zip folder and downloading a GeoHive Viewer, so many farmers may not have accessed it. DAFM has committed to making the process of engaging with the interactive map more user-friendly. Farmers were also urged to engage with their agricultural advisors to review the data.

The map is similar to the "red map" from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) water quality review prepared for the European Commission, which showed compliance with four water quality criteria, as requested by the Commission. However, in the final map, areas draining into a Nitrates Directive monitoring point where water quality was poor, or worsening, in 2022 compared to 2021, were slightly reduced compared to the "red map".

The areas excluded had increasing nitrate concentration, but water quality was still good, agriculture was not identified as a pressure on water quality, and appropriate action from an agricultural perspective can protect that good water quality status.

Elsewhere in Munster, areas in the final map include 77 farms in Co Limerick stocked at over 220kg in 2022, 64 in Co Waterford, 61 in Co Kerry, and five in Co Clare.

Similarly, 176 farms are likely to be affected in Co Kilkenny by the nitrates derogation new upper limit, 121 in Co Laois, 111 in Co Monaghan, 109 in Co Wexford, 100 in Co Meath, 86 in Co Meath, 65 in Co Galway, 62 in Co Louth, 51 in Co Cavan, 48 in Co Kildare, 39 in Co Carlow, 31 in Co Westmeath, 26 in Co Mayo, 26 in Co Roscommon, 24 in Co Wicklow, 17 in Co Longford, six in Co Leitrim, six in Co Sligo, five in Co Roscommon, and one in Co Donegal.

The details were given by Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue in the Dáil in reply to a question from Independent Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath.

Minister McConalogue, in a Dáil reply to a question from Independent Cork South West TD Michael Collins, said Co Cork, in particular, has a mix of land that will remain at the current maximum derogation stocking rate of 250kg, and land that will move to the lower maximum stocking rate of 220kg.

"My Department is currently categorising all land parcels, with a view to shortly writing to individual farmers to set out their position based on land declared this year".

"This letter will outline that, following consultation with the Ag Water Quality Working Group, the derogation stocking limit of 220 or 250 kg N/ha will apply on a parcel-by-parcel basis. This rule will apply across and within townlands. Commonage land will maintain its lower stocking rate limit of 50kg N/ha. Where any part of a parcel is within the areas identified as remaining at the 250kg limit, the whole parcel will remain at that higher limit for 2024".

A proportion of derogation farms will have lands in both the 250kg and 220kg areas. The limit on these farms will be calculated on a parcel-by-parcel basis, and where any part of a parcel is within the areas identified at the 250kg limit, the whole parcel will be subject to this higher limit.

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Karen Walsh

Karen Walsh

Law of the Land


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