Nitrates derogation confirmed
Over 7,000 farmers are expected to avail of the derogation in the coming year.

On Thursday, it was announced that Ireland has been formally granted a derogation under the Nitrates Directive following the receipt of legal approval from the European Commission, by the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy.

Minister Creed said that “the renewal of the derogation for a further four years is great news for Ireland’s farmers as it allows them to plan ahead with certainty over the medium term. All farmers have an important role to play in protecting our environment, particularly those farming intensively”.

Murphy added that “the decision is recognition by fellow EU member states that Ireland is maintaining a balanced commitment to ongoing improvements in water quality while also generating greater value from the agri-food sector''.

Legal approval

This formal legal approval follows December’s positive vote at a meeting of the EU nitrates management committee in Brussels and the signing, by Minister Murphy, of the new nitrates regulations on 20 December 2017, giving effect to Ireland’s fourth Nitrates Action Programme. This programme will now be amended to reflect the terms of the derogation, marking the conclusion of the process.

Minister Murphy also commented that “farmers must be aware of the increased level of commitment to water quality that is required of them when they apply to farm at more intensive stocking rates“.

The derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate than that stipulated in the directive, subject to adherence to stricter rules to be implemented by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The derogation will run until the end of 2021 when the fourth programme concludes.

Online applications

Minister Creed also announced the opening of the 2018 online application facility. “I would encourage more intensively stocked farmers to engage early with this application process and discuss the need for a derogation with their agricultural adviser,” the minister added.

Over 7,000 intensively stocked farmers availed of the derogation in 2017 with a similar number anticipated to avail of the facility in 2018. The closing date for applications is 20 April 2018. Farmers who applied for a derogation in 2017 are reminded that they must submit fertiliser accounts by 20 April 2018 also.

End-of-year nitrogen and phosphorus statements for 2017 are available on the Department’s online system at www.agfood.ie. Farmers who exceeded the limits in 2017 based on their cattle numbers will be advised in writing of this shortly but these figures will not have taken into consideration any documentation submitted to the Department by 31 December 2017.

Farmers not already registered for agfood.ie can do so by logging on to www.agfood.ie and clicking the ''Register'' button. To register a mobile phone number for future SMS text alerts, click here to access the sign-on form, or alternatively contact the regional office.

Read more

Stricter slurry rules for derogation farmers from 1 January

DAERA clampdown on slurry rules

This week in photos: milking and the harvest continues
Our top photos from the last week include farming in Limerick, Tipperary and Wexford.

This week's front cover: milking in Co Limerick

Eoin Carroll from Ballyvolane, Co Limerick milking cows on the farm of John McNamara in Gormanstown, Co Limrick. Eoin is currently completing the work experience element of his Leaving Cert agricultural sciene project on John's farm. He is working part time on the farm and gaining experience in areas including grassland management, herd health and milking. \ Philip Doyle

Loading cattle in Co Limerick

Paddy Leahy from Kilmallock, Co Limerick transferring his Angus cattle to a trailer, having sold them to Foyle Meats in Donegal. Paddy says its crazy that he has to sell to a factory in Donegal but they are giving him the best price at the moment. Paddy farms Angus, Hereford and continentals. For the last few weeks he has fed them silage and 8kg of meal a day. He says it is a relief to get rid of them due to the drought conditions and the additional costs that that has brought. \ Philip Doyle

My farming week in Co Tipperary

Michael Condon from Newcastle, Co Tipperary delivers zero-grazed grass from Jim O'Leary's farm for feeding. Michael farms with his father and uncle in south Tipperary. The mixed farm is mainly in corn but also rears calves from neighbouring farms. \ Donal O'Leary

Harvesting in Co Wexford

Lester Rothwell harvesting Infinity winter barley in Lacken, Co Wexford. The crop was sown in the first week of October. Lester harvested a separate field of Infinity barley the previous day and got a yield of 3.3t/acre, but was confident that this crop will perform better. \ Philip Doyle

Harvesting in Co Dublin

The Fitzgerald family harvesting in Newpark, north Co Dublin. Cousins James and John are cutting Tower winter barley, along with James' sons Finn and Jack. The crop's moisture is 18.5% with a bushel weight of 67KPH. \ Philip Doyle

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This week in photos: New Ross and Newport Marts

Around the country in pictures

This week in photos: Loughrea Mart and winter barley harvesting

Prime Minister visits but no new thinking
Stalemate continues in EU-UK negotitions on Brexit with positions restated in Brussels and Belfast on the occasion of PM visit

The UK Prime Minister spent Thursday and Friday in Northern Ireland and included a visit to the border in Belleek, Co Fermanagh. At the same time, the EU was publishing its advice and outlining specifically what would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which was of little comfort to Irish agriculture either side of the border.

Restating positions

The PM’s keynote speech of her visit was delivered in Belfast on Friday and it bluntly rejected the notion that the backstop agreement of Northern Ireland (NI) retaining access to the EU services would not be accepted by the UK government if it applied to NI alone, effectively creating a border in the Irish sea.

At the same time, the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was giving his first formal response to the UK white paper on Brexit, submitted a week earlier.

While the tone of his delivery was courteous and conciliatory, there was no doubt left that even as it was presented then, it was not going to fly in Brussels as it was looking for de facto membership of the single market for industrial goods and agricultural produce but not accepting the four principles of the single market.

The chief negotiator did, however, acknowledge that it was the basis for negotiation and he committed as did the new Brexit secretary in the UK government, Dominic Raab, to an intensive negotiation continuing over the summer.

No solution for farmers or business

Where does this leave farmers on the island of Ireland? A quick glance at the 16-page EU document published on Friday suggests that they, like all other sections of society, will be in a very difficult place, with the trading normality that is currently enjoyed, shattered.

As well as the tariff issue, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules will be enforced on any trade from the UK to the EU, which will involve physical inspections. This is in addition to the tariff issue that has been frequently covered by the Irish Farmers Journal.

As the positions stand, redefined by the UK and EU at the end of this week, it is impossible to see the basis for common ground develop.

One side or the other will have to back away from red lines that they have drawn. The only possibility is that every negotiation needs stalemate, walkouts and lots of brinkmanship. The consequences of a no-deal Brexit were set out by the International Monetary Fund earlier in the week and unsurprisingly there are no winners, only losers. And Ireland would be the biggest loser of all.