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Nitrates Directive

A comprehensive public consultation process on a new Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) commenced in June 2010.  Forty five submissions were received in total, including submissions from the main farming organisations and environmental non-governmental organisations. 

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food set up an Expert Advisory Group to assist both Departments in taking forward the review process and in determining a common position on the measures that should be included in the new NAP. 

Following completion of the Expert Group's Report, detailed discussions took place with the EU Commission on the proposed content of the new programme. Final agreement was reached with the Commission on a new NAP in November 2010. The new programme will run to the end of 2013. 

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 set-back 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.

The conclusion of an agreement with the EU Commission on a new NAP cleared the way for the EU Commission to approve Ireland's request for a renewal of the derogation under the Nitrates Directive. This derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at higher stocking levels subject to adherence to stricter rules.   The new derogation will run to the end of 2013, coinciding with the new NAP.

The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government introduced revised Nitrates Regulations in December 2010 [S.I. 610 of 2010 - European Communities (Good Agricultural practice for the protection of Waters) Regulations], to give effect to the agreed new National Action Programme