Farmers have been left frustrated and disappointed at the changes to nitrates derogation limits and delays in farm payments, Fine Gael Senator John Cummins has said.
Senator John Cummins echoed the sentiments of his Fine Gael Agriculture Spokesman Tim Lombard in describing the statement from Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, that the European Commission has confirmed there is “no prospect” of re-opening the current commission decision on Ireland’s nitrates derogation is a ‘major blow to all involved’.
Senator Cummins stated: “It is extremely disappointing that there appears to be no prospect of re-opening the current European Commission decision on Ireland's Nitrates Derogation. This means from January 2024, the derogation limit is due to reduce to 220 kg/ha in certain areas which will affect the stocking rate on many farms.
“This decision poses significant challenges which will directlyand indirectly impact many farms across Waterford and the wider South East region. There are very real financial and farm management consequences, and the short timeframe before the new limit takes effect will bring added difficultiesfor farmers.”
Senator Cummins continued: “Farmers have made a concerted effort to improve water quality and have embraced many new practices to reduce agriculture's impact in this area. I see the commitment that is there across the sector, to adopt new practices, on a weekly basis while out canvassing and engaging with farmers, however sufficient time should be allowed to see the impact these changes are having. Obviously being able to demonstrate improved water quality will be critical in protecting and retaining the derogation in the longer term.”
“I echo the call by my colleague Senator Lombard for a thorough and complete assessment of the economic impact of this decision on our rural economy. There is no doubt, the dairy sector underpins many family incomes across rural Waterford and I am concerned about the impact of this decision on affected farmers”.
Senator Cummins concluded: “Ireland's current derogation is due to expire on the 1st of January 2026 and it is vital that the strongest case possible is put forward for its retention given its importance to the rural economy.”