The suggestion that dairy farms should be licensed by the EPA is tantamount to "using a sledgehammer to break a nut", IFA dairy chair Tom Phelan has said.

“Media coverage yesterday [Monday 10 November] based on quotes from an unnamed Department of Agriculture source was a kite-flying exercise. Dairy farmers are already heavily regulated with cross compliance and the nitrates derogation.”

The IFA has said the Department of Agriculture has not made any proposal that dairy farms should be licensed by the EPA, describing the suggested move as "over the top and disproportionate".

Dairy investments

Irish dairy farmers have invested over €79.6m on Low Emission Slurry Spreading equipment, which the IFA predicts will yield positive results for water quality.

Phelan said: “Sales of protected urea have increased significantly this year. From January to June, just under 40,000t were sold, compared to 21,000t in 2019.

“Derogation farmers also abide by strict requirements to protect water, which have been enhanced in the past year following a voluntary mid-term review.”

Time lag

The IFA has said an inevitable time lag exists between implementation of improved management practices and water quality response.

“Changes in agricultural practices and the new measures to be introduced as of the 1 January must be given the time to work. It is the responsibility of the EPA to adjust expectations and recognise the time it will take,” Phelan added.

“Dairy farmers were constrained by quotas for over 30 years. It’s only natural that there would be a period of expansion following their removal in 2015. This has had huge benefits for farmers, their families and rural areas.”

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