Mr. Eoghan Murphy TD, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, has announced that farmers will be allowed as an exceptional measure to spread chemical fertiliser and slurry for a fortnight longer than the deadlines set out in the European Communities (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017 (SI No 605 of 2017).
He has taken this decision following consultation with Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and taking account of the highly unusual weather conditions in the spring and summer of 2018. A wide range of agricultural experts and farm organisations have sought this flexibility as it may, if weather conditions are favourable, allow for an additional period of boosted grass growth in the autumn which could help to mitigate the fodder challenges currently facing farmers.
Minister Murphy considers that early communication of an extension will help farmers to plan ahead and confirms that the start of the closed period during which landspreading of chemical fertiliser is forbidden will be pushed back from 15 September to 30 September and the closed period for slurry will not commence until 31 October instead of the normal 15 October.
The Minister emphasises that his announcement represents an extension of time only. All landspreading activity is conditional on weather and ground conditions being suitable as set out in the Nitrates Regulations and the importance of preventing agricultural runoff to waterbodies is critical to the good operation of the Regulations. Livestock manures or any fertilisers may not be landspread when, for example, land is waterlogged, flooded or likely to flood, frozen or if heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours. Buffer zones are specified for different kinds of water bodies and fertilisers may not be applied within those buffer zones. However, for the period of the extension farmers are advised to adhere to wider buffer zones. In addition, the absolute prohibition on landspreading during the months of November and December remains.