The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy T.D., today announced that Ireland has been formally granted a ‘derogation’ under the Nitrates Directive following the receipt of legal approval from the EU Commission.

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.”

Minister 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. Both aims can be compatible and our successful implementation of the Nitrates Regulations and the associated derogation over the first three Action Programmes has shown that”.

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[1] 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 especially in light of recent water quality results which show that significant additional effort is required across a range of sectors if the long-term water quality targets set out in the Water Framework Directive are to be achieved.”

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 to the end of 2021 when the fourth programme concludes.

Minister Creed also announced the opening of the 2018 on-line 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 advisor”, 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 (N&P statements) for 2017 are available on the Department’s online system 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 can do so by logging onto and clicking the ‘Register’ button. To register a mobile phone number for future SMS text alerts log on to to access the sign-on form, or alternatively contact the regional office.

[1] European Union (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017, S.I. 605 of 201

Source: Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine