Farmers should see slurry as a valuable nutrient and not a waste product, senior inspector at the Department of Agriculture Jack Nolan has said.

Speaking at the BioFarm 2021 conference, he was asked if with advancements in technology, such as drones, would there be “better policing of spreading waste outside in a waterlogged field”.

Nolan said the starting point was referring to slurry as waste.

“The problem here is we’re referring to it as waste, that’s the starting point. It’s a valuable nutrient. So farmers should see it as a valuable nutrient.

“If it’s being spread in November/December, it’s being treated as waste and being dumped. We are in conversation with Department of Housing and local authorities about improving inspections.

“On a national level we definitely need to improve compliance, it’s something we’re working on,” he said.

Next CAP

He said that the next CAP is going to bring in changes and that Ireland will be judged as a country on whether we deliver or not.

“So by 2030 we should have reduced the level of nutrients in water by 50%. We can do it. We’re going to increase our biodiversity area to 10%,” he said, noting that the definition of an eligible hectare up to now has not helped biodiversity.

“The eligible hectare has been a real problem. There has been conflict between DG Agriculture and DG Environment [at the European Commission]. DG Agri says that to draw down payment your land has to be fit for agricultural production and that has led to farmers removing habitats. In the new CAP that will change, which can only be a positive. Ireland has been to the forefront of looking for that change,” he said.

Jack Nolan

Comparing Leitrim and Cork

Nolan said the definition of an eligible hectare will be member state specific in the next CAP.

“Treating Ireland the same as Italy obviously doesn’t make sense and that comes right down to treating Limerick the same as Cork – it doesn’t make sense.

“Because we have different soil types and different farming types. The new CAP is going to push further than ever before, farmers will be asked to do more to get back the money that they’ve been receiving.”

Agri-environment scheme

Nolan said the next flagship agri-environment scheme will be at the forefront of what’s being done in Europe for the environment and it will cause change on farms.

“The majority of farmers that participate in agri-environmental measures are those that have high nature value land. What’s going to happen to these farmers in the east/south east/south west of the country that, generally speaking, don’t participate if they’re intensive, where are they going to get the incentive or the money to change? That’s where industry has to step in.

“In Holland, if I have above average biodiversity on my farm I can get a cheaper loan from Rabobank.

“If I supply the main dairy, FrieslandCampina in Holland, if I have extra biodiversity I get more payment for my litre of milk. There’s no such payment in Ireland for my beef, for my sheep, for my milk, for anything. This is the way that industry can play its role, by supporting farmers in change,” he said.