The Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) has urged the Department of Agriculture to better engage with farmers on the details of changes to fertiliser purchases due to come into effect next January, saying that farmers are unaware of the new obligations they will have to adhere to when buying fertiliser.

The IFA’s call for more engagement came after this week’s Irish Farmers Journal revealed that farmers could face fines of up to €5,000 for not complying with the rules of the new fertiliser database, which is to be passed by Government over the coming months.

Farmers are unaware of these obligations and do not comprehend the significance of other nitrates changes coming from the Department, according to IFA dairy chair Stephen Arthur.

“I am meeting farmers all around the country, both at IFA-organised information events and informally, and most are totally unaware of the changes that will happen in the next few months that may have a detrimental effect on their ability to remain viable,” said Arthur.

“The new banding regime will come in on 1 January 2023, but many have no idea how exactly this will be calculated. This change could mean a significant reduction in stock numbers on some farms,” he stated.

Fines but no details

The dairy chair went on to say that there has been an absence of practical details on how the fertiliser database will work.

The draft regulation that will form the legal basis of the database has laid out the possibility of fines for farmers breaching the new rules, but the practical details of what a farmer will need to do to remain compliant have yet to be set out.

“Farmers are further frustrated to see in the media over the last few days that fines of €5,000 will be imposed for not complying with the new fertiliser register, but no information on how this register will actually work is available,” Arthur added.

“Added to the many other changes in the new nitrates action plan is the threat of a reduction in the organic nitrogen level in some areas to 220kg/ha at the interim review next year.

"This measure was never mentioned during the consultations on this new plan last year and have placed a huge burden of worry on many family farms.”

No COVID-19 excuse

IFA environmental chair Paul O'Brien said that the ending of COVID-19 restrictions should have presented an opportunity for the Department to meet with farmers to allow for the new rules to be effectively communicated.

“It is very disappointing that the Department of Agriculture has to date not organised to meet farmers to inform them on exactly what is involved,” commented O’Brien.

“These are required, so farmers are fully aware of all changes and to ensure they do not fall foul of these new regulations.”

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