Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture Deputy Claire Kerrane has called on Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue to provide clarity and greater communication around the potential phosphorus-related penalties facing farmers.

Deputy Kerrane was reacting to this week’s story in the Irish Farmers Journal, where Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) president Michael Ryan warned that an avalanche of direct payment penalties could be imposed on farmers who exceed their phosphorus allowance.

The amended good agricultural practice (GAP) for the protection of waters regulations sets limits regarding the application of certain nutrients, including phosphorus, to agricultural soils.

The new rules mean those who occupy holdings with a grassland stocking rate above 130kg nitrogen/ha (N) will be required to take soil tests.


However, it has been noted by farmers and representative organisations that many farmers may be unaware of fertiliser they use that contains phosphorus and the impact that sanctions may have on their payments.

Deputy Kerrane said she has been contacted by farmers and representative farm organisations who are concerned about the possible penalties as a result of spreading fertiliser containing phosphorus.

“It has been flagged that penalties could have a serious impact on direct farm payments, such as the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) and Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES).

“Many farmers rely on direct farm payments and the last thing they need is to have those payments cut - particularly when they are unaware of the impact that spreading fertiliser with phosphorus might have.

ACRES penalties

“The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) has estimated that ACRES penalties alone could reach €5,000 for larger farmers, which is eye-watering.

“I queried the Minister on the application of penalties last week and his reply was vague, but confirmed that farmers may be ‘sanctioned’ should phosphorus be applied where there is not a valid soil sample or where they exceed set allowances.”

Deputy Kerrane called on the Minister to provide clarity on the issue.