Farming organisations have called for farmer-friendly measures to be centre stage in discussions at the Department of Agriculture’s nitrates expert group.

Last week, the Irish Farmers Journal revealed that the expert group is considering using GPS units to track slurry exports, establishing a national feed database and imposing slurry-spreading restrictions on grazing platforms.

The use of GPS trackers to monitor slurry exports would be a “low price to pay in order to maintain the derogation”, the Department’s senior nitrates inspector Ted Massey told Macra’s annual conference at the weekend.

Massey also pointed out that a similar slurry movement tracking system is in place in the Netherlands.

The nitrates expert group itself agreed that Department officials here should engage with the Dutch department of agriculture to explore how the measure could be implemented in Ireland.

Reflection needed

IFA president Tim Cullinan stated that a serious rethink of the increasing regulatory burden being placed on Irish farmers is needed amid volatile global agri-food markets and the threat outbreaks of conflict pose to food security.

“At this stage, farmers have contended with so much on the nitrates side, we are talking about 30 new measures since 2018,” commented Cullinan.

“It’s time now for a reflection – it’s time for the Department to work with farmers and make sure any measures are farmer-friendly. Governments need to have a look around the world and reassess food security and the ability to keep producing food, not driving people away from farming.”

President of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) Dermot Kelleher hit out at the measures proposed as being drawn up by “people that don’t have a clue”.

Policymakers must put farmers at the centre of any discussions on new policies as it is farmers who are the ones who must implement them, Kelleher told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“No one is talking to farmers, the people who are doing the work on the ground. Until farmers are part of these talks, they are only a waste of time,” he said.

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