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Gormley and Smith set out details of Ireland's 2nd NAP

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, John Gormley TD, and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Brendan Smith TD, today welcomed the agreement that has been reached with the EU Commission on the content of Ireland's 2nd National Action Programme (NAP) under the Nitrates Directive.  This new programme will run to the end of 2013.

"The new Action Programme will support the environmentally progressive outcomes achieved under NAP1 and will continue to secure consistency with the EU Nitrates Directive" said Minister Gormley. "The overall package will, in this economically challenging climate, assist Ireland's agri-food sector meet its targets under the Food Harvest 2020 strategy on the basis of sustainable farming practices", said Minister Smith.

A comprehensive public consultation process on the proposed NAP revisions commenced in June this year; 45 submissions were received including from the main farming organisations and environmental non-governmental organisations.

The Ministers set up an Expert Advisory Group to assist their Departments in taking forward the review process and in determining a common position on the measures which should be included in the 2nd NAP.

Following completion of the Expert Group's Report, there have been a number of detailed discussions with the EU Commission on the proposed content of the new programme.

Among the main new features of the 2nd National Action Programme are -

- a site-specific, risk-based approach for set back distances from drinking water abstraction points; previously setback distances were determined by the water abstraction rate;

- a prohibition on the application of chemical fertiliser within 2 metres of a watercourse;  previously this was 1.5 metres;

- new controls on storage of baled silage;

- amendments to the maximum nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisation rates for cereal crops including a measure to address the issue of low protein levels in malting barley;

- time-limited extension for transitional arrangements covering the use of pig and poultry manure and spent mushroom compost;

- revision of certain dates where the establishment of green cover is required.

In the light of the Expert Review Group Report and subsequent discussions with the Commission, the current regime of closed periods for land-spreading is not being changed.

The conclusion of an agreement with the EU Commission on this package of measures clears the way for a formal vote by the EU Nitrates Committee on Ireland's request for a renewal of its derogation under the Nitrates Directive. This derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at higher stocking levels subject to adherence to stricter rules.  The EU Commission has indicated that on the basis of the new National Action Programme now agreed, it can support Ireland's request for a renewal of the derogation.

The proposed changes in the 2nd Action Programme must go through a screening process in line with the requirements of the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive. This screening process has been initiated by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Regulations to give effect to the Programme will be finalised shortly.

Date Released: 03 November 2010