UFU feeds into the Nitrates Action Programme Review

Wednesday, 4 December, 2013

The Ulster Farmers’ Union recently participated in the DARD Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) stakeholder review event where both DARD and the DOE presented findings from their Review of the 2011-2014 Nitrates Action Programme. AFBI and NIEA also provided an update on NAP related research which has been conducted over the course of the current Programme.  

UFU Environment Chairman John McLenaghan said; “To date farmers have adapted well to a complicated programme and should take great credit for the efforts and investments they have made to help improve water quality in Northern Ireland.  The DARD Nitrates Action Programme review stakeholder event was a good opportunity for organisations to come together to assess progress to date and identify where improvements can be made. It was also an opportunity for us to submit feedback into the review process, outlining our experiences from the current programme and what farmers require in the next Nitrates Action Programme 2015-2018. 

“Over £200m was previously invested in slurry storage through the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme which has helped farmers to store slurry for longer periods of time and apply when conditions are more suitable, making more efficient use of farm nutrients. In addition, the £2.2 million invested in advanced slurry spreading equipment through the Manure Efficiency Technology Scheme has helped farmers improve nutrient uptake, reduce fertilizer bills and lower emissions, while agri-environment schemes have helped farmers make provisions to improve water quality and biodiversity.”

With the current Nitrates Action Programme finishing its four year cycle at the end of 2014, both DARD and DOE will soon be providing a review of progress to the Commission.  It is essential that we focus on all the positive work farmers are doing to help improve water quality and there may indeed be opportunities to relax some regulations rather than introduce more. 

John continued; “Going forward, the UFU have outlined that the next Action Programme must focus on helping farmers to deliver solutions to continue improving water quality rather than relying solely on regulation and enforcement, which are often considered blunt instruments by farmers.  It is also vital that within the next Rural Development Programme support is made available to help farmers improve farm efficiency and reduce environmental impact thus helping to maintain progress with the objectives of the Nitrates Action Programme.”