UFU flags unacceptable ammonia measures in Nitrates consultation

Friday, 22 March, 2019

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union has submitted its response to DAERA’s proposals on Northern Ireland’s future Nitrates Action Plan (NAP) and has criticised DAERA for using a “sneaky, back door approach” and “taking liberties in the absence of government ministers” to slip ammonia measures into the proposals.

“DAERA must take a common sense approach. Including ammonia measures in NAP is nonsensical and counterproductive. Work is already underway to create an Ammonia Action Plan, these measures are better discussed and consulted on as part of that process,” said UFU president, Ivor Ferguson.

The UFU says it is seriously concerned and cannot accept the majority of the proposed changes to NI’s current Nitrates Action Programme. It says, if implemented they will have a hugely detrimental effect on local farm businesses and in fact, the entire agri-food industry as a whole.

“The suggestion to cover new outdoor slurry stores from 1 January 2020 and existing stores by 2022 is just one example of the totally unworkable proposals coming from DAERA. Ultimately, it will all add additional cost, paperwork and frustration to farm family businesses. This is not acceptable. It is vital that NI secures an approved Nitrates derogation but we must not cripple the industry in the process,” said Mr Ferguson.

DAERA have also included a number of measures relating to ammonia in the proposals such as the covering of tanks, banning of urea and phasing out of splash plates. Something the UFU fiercely opposes. While farmers accept more needs to be done, rigid systems with ruthless enforcement will not work.

“The evidences shows catchment based approaches – working with local farmers and other partners – is the best way to achieve results. The Sustainable Agriculture Land Management Strategy has recommended this as a way forward and I would strongly encourage DAERA to embrace this method when it comes to tackling water quality and ammonia,” said Mr Ferguson.

Farmers recognise the importance of caring for the environment but do not get enough credit for the work they already do. “We work day in and day out looking after the countryside. We’ve had to adopt complicated programmes and invest significant amounts to comply with UK and EU regulations, which have helped to improve water quality over the last decade,” said the UFU president.

The UFU’s consultation response is available at www.ufuni.org/resources