The European Commission has been told by the EU’s farm ministers that its proposed changes to the industrial emissions directive would place a disproportionately large burden on small cattle farmers and extensive livestock producers.

In April, the Irish Farmers Journal reported that Brussels had put forward plans that would require a farm with the equivalent of 150-cows or more to apply for a permit under the industrial emissions directive, similar to the one required by most pig and poultry farms currently operating in the State.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue did not attend the meeting, but was represented by deputy permanent representative to the EU Barbara Cullinane, who stated that Ireland was seeking an upward revision of the permit threshold.

Cullinane told the EU’s Council of Agricultural Ministers this week that Ireland supported legislation to reduce ammonia and methane emissions.

“However, Ireland considers that the proposed 150LU limit is not justified,” the Brussels-based civil servant said.

“As others have said, this limit would mean that a significant number of smaller family farms in Ireland and across the EU would fall under the scope of the directive and be subject to disproportionately onerous administrative and financial obligations.

“We believe the directive should be properly focused on agro-industrial scale enterprises and the proposed LU limit should be reconsidered in order to avoid negative impacts on family farms."

Commission defence

The EU Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius responded to the members states’ concerns by stating that the 150LU permit threshold was balanced and “is definitely not a small farm”.

He argued that the changes to the directive would help enhance the preparedness and resilience of the EU’s farming sector.

The council heard that the rules would apply to 184,000 EU farms, leaving 1.5m farms outside of the directive’s scope.