Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) president Tim Cullinan has warned that farmers could be forced to consider culling in-calf cows to comply with the nitrates derogation stocking rate cut that will apply to most of the country from January.

This must be raised by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue with European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius during a planned visit to Ireland next week, according to Cullinan.

The IFA leader’s comments follow the delivery of a Department of Agriculture letter to affected farmers informing them that the cut to 220kg organic N/ha will apply from January 2024.

“The timing of this letter when the Commissioner is coming to Ireland next week to discuss this very issue with the Taoiseach is unbelievable,” Cullinan said.

“However, the real issue is that it will not be practical for farmers to comply.”


The IFA maintains that the timelines around the stocking rate review made it impossible for farmers to plan breeding decisions around any outcome which could have arisen.

The association referred to the decision-making process on retaining the 250kg N/ha derogation stocking rate as being “deeply flawed” to begin with, before doubling down on the criticism it levelled at the Minister for “waving the white flag on a Zoom call”.

The final decision was made in September 2023, well after the year’s breeding season had wrapped up in spring-calving herds.

“To suggest that farmers can comply with this reduction without reducing stock is a fallacy. Farmers will now be forced to consider culling pregnant animals,” Cullinan went on.

“This is wrong and the Minister, the Taoiseach and Commissioner Sinkevicius know this. They must address it when the Commissioner comes to Dublin to meet the Taoiseach next week.”

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