Concerns about the price and supply of fertiliser has led DAERA to review the rules which require hundreds of NI farmers to export slurry off their farms each year.
“Potential options for relaxing the livestock manure nitrogen limits will be considered in association with CAFRE and the NI Environment Agency,” a department spokesperson told the Irish Farmers Journal.
Around 1,600 farmers in NI submit records of slurry exports each year to allow them to operate under livestock manure nitrogen limits.
Most farmers are restricted to 170kg of organic nitrogen per hectare, although farmers with a nitrates derogation are allowed up to 250kg per hectare.
Relaxing the rules could allow them to make better use of livestock manure if it removed the need for the likes of slurry and poultry litter to be moved off farm.
However, the DAERA spokesperson said the review will involve looking at the “agronomic and environmental implications” of such a move.
“It should be noted that if crop nitrogen requirements are met only by livestock manure applications, then other nutrients, particularly phosphorus, can often be over supplied,” the spokesperson said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused significant disruption in the global fertiliser industry, and it also had a major effect on the international grain markets.
The NI Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) is pressing for regulations on animal feed to be reviewed so that local feed mills have more choice when buying ingredients on international markets.
This includes flexibility on maximum residual limits for pesticides on imported grains. DAERA said it is “working closely” with NIGTA and the Department of Agriculture in the Republic of Ireland on the matter “to ensure a continuing all-island approach”.
Grain traders in NI are also calling for a temporary relaxation around rules which govern how genetically modified crops are approved for import.
However, progress on this issue is not as far advanced and approval from the European Commission is needed initially.
“DAERA is liaising with the competent authority and NIGTA on the matter,” the department spokesperson said.