Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said that all farmers will be affected by changes to the nitrates regulations, including those not in receipt of CAP payments.

"Any changes to the water quality legislation (nitrates regulations) will apply to all farmers, whether or nor they are in receipt of a CAP payment," the Minister said in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy.

He said that the nitrates rules will include limits on chemical fertiliser at farm level and that amendments proposed under the nitrates review "will mean that chemical fertiliser usage will likely decline over the coming years."

Minister McConalogue also said that many farmers will be mandated to use low emissions slurry spreading (LESS) techniques to apply their organic manures.

He said these measures will have a very positive impact in reducing on-farm ammonia emissions.

Reputational damage

Last week the secretary general at the Department of Agriculture, Brendan Gleeson, took aim at farmers who flout the nitrates regulations. He said they have done "immense reputational damage" to the industry.

Gleeson likened the practices of “a minority of farmers” to “smoking in peoples’ houses”, and said that a “cultural change” was required regarding nitrates compliance.

“The actions of a small few are doing immense reputational damage to the sector and that has to be unacceptable to everybody," he said.

He said the farm sector needed to “change the direction of travel” on water quality in order to build a “defensible case” regarding the

nitrates derogation.