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Coughlan welcomes revised Nitrates Regulations

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan T.D., said today that she was very happy with the positive response from the European Commission to the proposals for amendment of the Nitrates Regulations put forward by her colleague Minister Roche. The proposed changes were developed by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Department of Agriculture and Food with the close involvement of Teagasc. Minister Coughlan said that the changes to the Regulations now agreed addressed a range of important issues identified by Teagasc in the revised scientific advice submission received from that body in March 2006. She was satisfied that the amended Regulations which provide greater flexibility in complying with fertiliser limits and allow for a much clearer understanding of the requirements will be of major benefit to farmers.

The Nitrogen and Phosphorus fertiliser limits defined in Part 3 of the Nitrates Regulations, which deals with nutrient-management, will apply from 1 January 2007. It is critical, Minister Coughlan said, that the interval is used to ensure the flow of maximum information to farmers on all of the new requirements. In order to ensure this, the Minister said her Department is now revising the Guidance Document for farmers to reflect the amended Regulations and consultation with the farm bodies on the text will take place shortly. The circulation of the Nitrates Guidance Document to all farmers will be accompanied by a series of information meetings for farmers around the county in early autumn.

Minister Coughlan said that Teagasc will have a major role in the advisory/information campaign and in ensuring that farmers are best prepared for complying with the Nitrates Regulations. In the context of cross compliance and the link to the Single Payment Scheme, the Minister stressed the importance of following coherent and consistent inspection procedures and her Department's staff in the field would be ensuring this.

"I have long recognised the implications of the Nitrates Directive for the intensive agriculture sector and I have already taken a number of initiatives to assist the farmers involved" continued Minister Coughlan. "These include extending the Farm Waste Management Scheme to the pig, poultry and mushroom sectors as well as grant aiding such new items as decanter centrifuge systems, feeding systems for pigs and specialised slurry spreading equipment. Funding is also available for investment in emerging technologies including aerobic/anaerobic digestion systems and fluidised bed combustion and to support appropriate agri- environment research projects".

The Minister said that the amended Regulations provide for certain transition arrangements to the end of 2010 for usage of pig and poultry manure and spent mushroom compost. This provides the necessary timescale for producers in these sectors to adapt to the full requirements of the Nitrates Regulations from 1 January 2011. To assist in this process, Minister Coughlan is establishing a dedicated Working Group comprised of all the main stakeholders to come forward with cost-effective and pragmatic solutions to the various issues which need to be addressed.

In conclusion Minister Coughlan said that the agreement with the Commission opened the way to progressing Ireland's application for a derogation for an Organic Nitrogen limit of up to 250 kg/ha/year. Consideration of the application had been put on hold by the Commission pending the conclusion of negotiation of the amended Regulations. Early approval of the derogation is vitally important to many dairy farmers in particular. The two Departments will, therefore, be pressing the Commission to make appropriate proposals to the Nitrates Management Committee in the early autumn.

19 July, 2006

Date Released: 19 July 2006