UFU comment on Nitrates Action Programme

Thursday, 28 March, 2019

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says DAERA has come to its senses on nitrates and has adopted a more pragmatic approach to Northern Ireland’s new Nitrates Action Programme (NAP). UFU deputy president, Victor Chestnutt says the UFU fought hard against many of DAERA’s impractical and unworkable proposals. “Many of the proposals, if implemented, would have caused significant issues on farms. Under the new programme, there will be changes and additional regulations, however, it could have been far worse for farmers,” he said.

The comments were made following confirmation that Northern Ireland’s nitrates derogation has been renewed and a new Nitrates Action Programme agreed. The plans were reviewed by the EU Commission and received a unanimous approval vote by the EU Nitrates Committee.

“The nitrates derogation is important for many grassland farmers here. We are pleased that this has been renewed following an independent review by the Commission and farmers now know where they stand. Unfortunately, this is another issue that has been delayed and had resulted in uncertainty for many farmers because of the lack of government at Stormont,” said Mr Chestnutt.

Despite the short consultation period, all of the UFU’s 14 committees reviewed the nitrates proposals. Mr Chestnutt says members were aghast at many of the proposals, leading the organisation to fight hard, and win, against many of them. “The suggestions to cover existing slurry stores, ban the use of urea fertiliser, and the phasing out of splash plates were totally impractical. We also secured the commitment that lower emission spreading equipment (LESSE) will only be required on cattle farms stocking over 200 livestock units or pig farms where manure nitrogen production is 20,000kg per year. Initially, DAERA had proposed 100 livestock units on cattle farms and 10,000kg on pig farms respectively,” he said.

However, despite these wins, the UFU remain concerned there are a number of changes that will add cost and bureaucracy for more farmers. “Even with the positive amendments to some of the original proposals, there are still new restrictions for farmers that we will continue to lobby on. DAERA need to ensure that they put in place guidance and support to help farmers to comply with the new requirements. Low emission spreading equipment is very costly. Farmers will need a support scheme to help them transition towards using this equipment and to comply with other measures. We are urging DAERA to put an effective scheme in place quickly,” said Mr Chestnutt.

The UFU will now work with DAERA to ensure a practical interpretation of the rules and to create the new guidance booklet, which will accompany any new regulations