The Department of Agriculture now using the nitrates review as a Trojan horse to implement other measures, IFA president Tim Cullinan has said.

Cullinan made the comments following Friday’s Teagasc signpost webinar, where the Department’s chief inspector was speaking and said that the Department’s proposals for the next Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) were justified.

However, the IFA president has said the Government cannot use the nitrates review to introduce measures that are more to do with delivering climate policy objectives, than improving water quality.

“I am deeply troubled by the blatant attempt by the Department to use this nitrates review to deliver on other policy objectives.

“The objective of the nitrates review is to introduce measures to protect and improve water quality. If there are wider benefits to climate and biodiversity, this is welcome. However, the Department is now using the nitrates review as a Trojan horse to implement other measures,” he said.

Cost-benefit analysis

Cullinan said the Government must undertake a cost-benefit analysis to understand the economic cost of the proposed measures and the associated improvement to water quality before the viability of more family farms is undermined, with little improvement to water quality.

“There needs to be full negotiation with farmers around all these measures. These kite-flying exercises dressed up as a consultation process are frustrating and angering farmers,” he said.

IFA environment chair Paul O’Brien said the proposed measures to cover slurry stores or the use of LESS have little to do with improving water quality, but more to do with reducing agriculture emissions.

“The review must focus on supporting farmers to improve water quality. It must not be used as a vehicle for the Government to renege on its responsibility to support farmers in the low-carbon transition,” he said.

IFA dairy chair Stephen Arthur said it was infuriating that the Department would think it is acceptable to place such a financial burden on farms under the proposed soiled water storage and management rules because of their inability to manage compliance.

Cullinan said that the IFA had sought an urgent meeting with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and will be making a submission to the NAP review.