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Ministers Creed and Murphy welcome recommendations following review of the Nitrates Derogation

Published on Thursday, 25 Jul 2019
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Ministers Creed and Murphy welcome recommendations following review of the Nitrates Derogation

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy T.D, published the recommendations of the Nitrates Expert Group following a review of the Nitrates Derogation.

Derogation farms are a very important cohort of farmers for the Irish economy and this review has been conducted to ensure that those availing of the Derogation are operating to efficient and effective water quality protection standards at farm level.

Both Ministers have welcomed the recommendations of the review group and will move to bring these into force this Autumn.

Minister Creed said “I very much welcome the recommendations of this review which was conducted to examine further opportunities for derogation farmers to improve efficiencies and continue to reduce their environmental footprint

Minister Creed also added “given the challenges, I must acknowledge all the submissions received as part of this review and the level of ambition voiced to meet these challenges. This is an important cohort of farmers committed to high levels of efficiency who have an important role to play in protecting our environment. The collaborative approach shown by the EPA, Teagasc, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and my own Department in working together as part of an expert group to review the submissions has resulted in a suite of recommendations that both myself and Minister Murphy welcome”

The derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate than that stipulated in the Nitrates Directive, subject to adherence to stricter rules to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  The derogation will run to the end of 2021 when the fourth programme concludes.

Over 7,000 intensively stocked farmers with 11% of Irish agricultural area and 20% of bovine livestock availed of the derogation in 2018 with a similar number anticipated to avail of the facility in 2019. In addition, a further 5,000 farmers with 13% of bovine livestock exceeded the 170 kg N/ha livestock manure limit but exported slurry, or took other actions to comply with the limit.

Minister Murphy added that “I welcome these new measures to protect water quality through the efficient management of nutrients on farms and the other measures included.  Farming at more intensive stocking rates must be complemented with a high level of water quality protection.  This is especially important now, in light of recent water quality results which show that significant additional effort is required across a range of sectors if the long-term water quality targets set out in the Water Framework Directive are to be achieved.”


Notes for Editors

Recommendations of the Nitrates Expert group

The current nitrates derogation provides that at least 50% of slurry produced on the holding shall be applied by 15 June. Low emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment shall be used for any slurry applications after 15 June. The review group recommend the following amendments;

  1. Slurry remaining on the holding after the 15/4/2020 must be spread by LESS
  2. All Slurry on the holding from the 12/1/2021 must be spread by LESS 

In addition it is recommended these conditions should apply to all farms with a whole farm stocking rate in excess of 170 kgs livestock manure N/ha.







Compulsory adoption of a farm scale liming programme on derogation farms and on all farms with a stocking rate above 170 kgs N/ha.


All farms must submit export forms for slurry movements earlier each calendar year to facilitate timely nutrient management planning.


Ireland is a predominately livestock country with 81% of the agricultural area devoted to grassland. Grassland and its productivity are central to our livestock systems. From an efficiency perspective, the review group recommend that derogation farmer’s undertake to;

  • Record through appropriate software technology the grass produced annually on the farm. This grassland management decision support tool enables the advancement of the decision making process through regular pasture measuring and budgeting on farm, improving nutrient use efficiency, grass production and utilisation.


  • Undertake certified grassland measurement training









2020 or 2021

All new grass reseeding completed by derogation farmers must include minimum clover content as part of the grass seed mixture however the inclusion rate must not exceed 50% of the sward mixture.


Land Eligibility

Commonage/rough grazing will not be eligible for derogation in 2020 and cannot be included for the calculation of the chemical fertiliser allowance for the holding. As a consequence, this will reduce the chemical fertiliser allowance on marginal lands and reduce the risk of losses to the environment.


Crude Protein in Concentrate Feeds

The review group recommend a measure to reduce the crude protein in concentrate feeds for grazing livestock on farms with a grassland stocking rate greater than 170 kg/ha in order to reduce excess protein in animals diets.



The Global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services published in early May by the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reported that biodiversity loss continues in an unprecedented manner. In this context, it is proposed derogation farmers implement the measures in the All Island Pollinator Plan. The review group recommend the adoption of a biodiversity measure on derogation farms



 Considerations for Nitrates Action Programme 2021

The Nitrates Review Group recognise the significant level of ambition forthcoming from the submissions of the review. Unfortunately, not all elements of the submissions could be advanced at this stage however there are several proposals that merit discussion in the context of the next Nitrates Action Programme which is due for consideration by the Commission at the end of 2021. The review group considers the following proposals need to be considered further in the context of the current and future challenges facing the sector;

  1. Ongoing research in fertiliser formulation provides an opportunity for both environmental and climate benefit.  The use of inhibitor technology to reduce the losses from fertilisers provides a significant environmental and climate opportunity. This should be reviewed further as part of the next NAP.
  2. There are environmental pressures at a catchment scale which can be attributed to intensification of agriculture. Intensively stocked dairy grazing platforms need further review in the context of the next NAP.
  3. 65% of the bovine livestock in the country are on farms at stocking rates > 130 kgs/ha. The review group do not consider this group to be intensive however the next Nitrates Action Programme review should examine opportunities for this cohort to reduce their environmental footprint and contribute to the climate and water challenges.
  4. Measures to support improved biodiversity on all farms

In addition, the Commission has requested Ireland to review some of the technical aspects of the Nitrates Action Programme and these will be incorporated into the next Nitrates Action Programme (NAP). This will include a review of SI 605 2017 and schedules 1, 2 and 3 and specifically;

  1. The annual excretion rates for livestock as per Table 6 of SI 605 2017 will be reviewed based on most recent scientific research.
  2. The average net rainfall during the specific storage period (Table 4 of SI 605 2017) will also be reviewed and updated as necessary.







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