Ministers Hogan and Coveney announce details of Ireland’s 3rd Nitrates Action Programme

The Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan TD, and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr. Simon Coveney TD, (29/01/2014) announced that the review of Ireland’s 2nd Nitrate Action Programme has been concluded and a revised 3rd Programme has been finalised. This 3rd Programme will run until the end of 2017.

“The new Action Programme will support the environmentally progressive outcomes achieved under the first two Programmes and will continue to secure consistency with the EU Nitrates Directive” said Minister Hogan “We have seen an improvement in water quality in the last number of years and it is important that we build on this over the next period”, Minister Hogan added.

A comprehensive public consultation process commenced in May 2013 and 30 submissions were received from a wide range of stakeholders. A jointly chaired (DECLG and DAFM) Expert Review Group was convened to consider all submissions received during public consultation and make recommendations on any changes to the Programme. This work has been completed and the group has presented its findings to the two Ministers. The Report of the Expert Group has been published on both Departments’ websites.

“We would like to extend our gratitude both to the Expert Review Group and the 30 individuals and bodies that made a submission,” the Ministers stated.

All recommendations of the Group were accepted by the Ministers and formed the basis of discussion with the EU Commission.

“The overall package will assist Ireland’s agri-food sector in working towards its targets under Food Harvest 2020, in a sustainable manner”, said Minister Coveney and he added, “In particular, this package paves the way for a formal vote on Ireland’s derogation in the coming weeks”.

This review includes a comprehensive review of phosphorus requirements for grassland production. Increases in phosphorus application have been provided for in certain cases where the Expert Group was satisfied that these were justified and the evidence indicated that there would be efficient use and targeted application. A change in the definition of ‘soiled water’ will bring much needed clarity for dairy farmers in relation to dairy washing. There is provision for new mitigation measures including the maintenance of an uncultivated zone in the vicinity of watercourses and increased set back distances from waters for certain activities. In light of the evidence emerging from Teagasc’s initial report on the Agricultural Catchments Programme, the current regime of closed periods for land spreading of fertilisers remains unchanged. However, an increased set back distance from surface waters for the application of organic manures (from 5 meters to 10 meters) is being introduced during the two weeks preceding and the two weeks following the prohibited periods.