A working group has been established by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to secure the long-term future of Ireland’s nitrates derogation.

The agriculture water quality working group will also develop ways to maintain the maximum possible stocking rates on Irish farms and protect the current 250kg nitrates band upper threshold held by farmers.

The taskforce, made up of farm organisations, Teagasc, the EPA, meat and dairy processor representatives and other relevant bodies, will be chaired by Department of Agriculture chief inspector Bill Callanan. The group’s first meeting will be held on Monday in Portlaoise.

Minister McConalogue said he has become increasingly concerned about Ireland’s ability to maintain its nitrates derogation into the future.

He said that the working group will work to identify and commit to “demonstrative actions” that will improve water quality.

Last decade

“The introduction of the Nitrates Action Programme has improved Irish water quality. However, over the last decade, our water quality has declined. Agricultural pressures have contributed to this decline.

“These negative trends threaten Ireland’s nitrates derogation post-2025 and I believe we must act now,” he added.

ICMSA president Pat McCormack said the new taskforce needs to have the “ambition” to maintain the 250kg threshold as it is “critical for the dairy industry”. He said that some of the most sustainable family farm units will be impacted if the derogation is lost.

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