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Ministers Coveney and Hogan Announce Amendments to the Nitrates Regulations to Support Fodder Production

In recognition of the severe difficulties being experienced by farmers due to a shortage of fodder and the serious risk of a further shortage this Autumn/Winter, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Simon Coveney T.D., and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr Phil Hogan, T.D., today announced temporary and targeted adjustment of 2 provisions of the Nitrates Regulations  to support additional fodder production on Irish farms in the coming months.

The adjustments involve:

  • A discounting of some concentrate feeding when calculating the overall level of phosphorus allowed on grassland farms in 2013 and 2014; and
  • an extension of two weeks to the period during with chemical fertiliser can be applied to grassland.

The Nitrates Regulations require that chemical fertiliser phosphorus is reduced where concentrates are fed. Adverse weather conditions in 2012 and so far in 2013 have meant that the level of meal feeding has increased significantly compared to an average year.  For many farmers, this means they will have a significantly reduced phosphorus allowance for 2013 and 2014.  Phosphorous is essential for grass growth. In order to ensure sufficient allowance of phosphorus for grassland application this year and 2014, some meal feeding in 2012 and 2013 will be discounted. 

The Ministers also announced a 2 week extension to the period during which chemical fertiliser can be applied to land this year.  Under the Nitrates Regulations, chemical fertilisers cannot be spread after 15th September.  “I am anxious to ensure that we prolong the grass growth period for as long as possible this year, given the slow growth rates at the moment. In order to address this, I am prepared to allow the application of chemical fertilisers to continue for an extra two weeks, up to and including 30 September 2013”,  Minister Hogan stated. 

Minister Coveney added that "as we move away from an emergency fodder situation in the short term, it is important that we focus on the need to target additional forage production this summer. These measures we are announcing today will provide every opportunity to farmers to maximise grass growth and conservation even into next Autumn”.

In making these adjustments, Minister Hogan cautioned that the protection of all water courses is of paramount importance and advised farmers that the application of fertilisers remains conditional on weather and ground conditions being suitable as set out in the GAP Regulations.


Notes for editor.

The European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Water) Regulations 2010 (Nitrates Regulations) require that for every tonne of concentrate fed, the maximum amount for application of available fertiliser in the form of Phosphorus is reduced by 5 kg’s. The amendment announced by both Ministers will result in the first ½ tonne of concentrate being fed per 85 kg N excreted (i.e. per each Dairy cow or livestock equivalents equalling 85kg’s Nitrogen excretion) being discounted when calculating fertiliser allowances.

Farmers are advised to take the total N excretion figure provided for their holding in their annual N and P statement and divide by 170. This figure is the number of tonnes of concentrate that can be discounted on the holding in calculating the maximum application rates.

Date Released: 22 May 2013