Ministers Announce Consultation On Proposed Changes To Nitrates Action Programme

Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan and Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill have announced a joint consultation exercise for the Nitrates Directive Action Programme for 2015-2018.

The Nitrates Directive is designed to protect surface waters and groundwaters from the harmful effects of agricultural pollution and is implemented through an Action Programme of measures.dn_screen

The current Nitrates Action Programme, which has been in place since 2011, must be reviewed by the end of 2014 and an updated Programme put in place for the next four years. In addition, the EU Derogation Decision, which allows farms meeting certain criteria to apply higher amounts of grazing livestock manure, expires at the end of 2014. Both Ministers reiterated their commitment to secure renewal of the Derogation which is particularly important for the local intensive grassland sector.

Minister Durkan said: “The Departments have completed a review and held a series of meetings with the European Commission earlier this year. We have achieved a positive outcome to the negotiations with the Commission on the proposals for the next Programme. This is due largely to evidence from our water monitoring programmes since 2007, that water quality is improving and that farmers’ compliance with the Programme has been good over the last four years. We need to ensure that this progress continues.

“Working in partnership with farmers is key to the success of the Action Programme. The Departments have engaged with stakeholders during the review process and a joint government- stakeholder working group will develop improved and updated guidance material for the NAP 2015-2018, building on experience from the last two Programmes.”

Minister O’Neill said: “Reductions in chemical fertiliser use and improved use of manures by the farmers have significantly increased overall nitrogen and phosphorus efficiency. My Department will continue to work with farmers through training to raise awareness, improve efficiency and support implementation of the NAP. My Department will also continue to fund a range of ongoing research to ensure the best scientific evidence base for local action.”

She added: “Significant progress has been achieved in improving water quality and a more efficient use of nutrients on farms. Farmers are to be commended for their good work in implementing the Action Programme and we will want to continue this positive approach for the NAP 2015-2018.”

Stakeholders from the agricultural industry and environmental groups were updated at a meeting held at CAFRE, Greenmount Campus on 29 May 2014 by officials from both Departments on the discussions with the European Commission. Stakeholders were told about a number of issues raised by the Commission and these issues form a key part of the consultation on the proposed Action Programme for 2015 to 2018.