The European Commission has firmly closed the door on any reversal to the cut to Ireland’s nitrates derogation, which will see the upper limit fall from 250kg organic nitrogen per hectare (N/ha) to 220kg N/ha.
Given that the current derogation was adopted in 2022 - only a year ago - and it applies until 2025, a discussion on amending this derogation would be premature, a Commission spokesperson said this week.
“Since there is no major improvement in water quality in Ireland or any other relevant development or new information which could justify an amendment, this discussion would indeed be premature.
“However, the Commission knows that even if a reduction of the amounts in the derogation is applied, the farms in these areas would still be allowed to apply manures above the limit set in the nitrates directive,” they said.
The spokesperson added that while it is the responsibility of the Irish authorities to apply the derogation decision, the Commission is supporting the Irish authorities in this implementation.
It is doing this “so that the Irish authorities identify correctly the areas polluted or with significant risk of pollution, that they prepare solutions to alleviate the economic impact on the more vulnerable farmers and of course ensure a fair implementation of this decision”.
Last week, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he would write to the European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius inviting him to Ireland to discuss the derogation.
“A formal invitation has not reached the commissioner yet. However, what I can definitely confirm is that the commissioner would be very much open to visiting Ireland upon such an invitation,” the Commission spokesperson said.
“When it comes to the derogation that Ireland currently has under the nitrates directive, this was something that was discussed between the Commissioner and Minister McConalogue on 4 September,” they added.
The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society - the representative body for the co-operative sector - has requested an urgent meeting with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to discuss the implications of what it says is "a cliff-edge cut" to the nitrates derogation.