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ICMSA say Govt performance on Nitrates Derogation an “abject surrender”.

The President of ICMSA has accused the Government of ‘selling out’ family dairy farms and rolling over for the EU Commission on the question of maintaining Ireland’s current derogation on the Nitrates Directive.  Pat McCormack said that what he called the Government’s “abject surrender” on the issue meant that Ireland’s multi-billion Euro dairy sector was now in “a very dangerous place” due to failing farm prices and production restrictions.   He said that effective control of the most sustainable and profitable part of our farming and agri-sector had been handed over to the Commission without so much as a murmur of protest by those charged with defending it and one would have to ask the question whether the Government had ever intended defending the Derogation or whether their public statements had been a charade.

“Against most of the evidence ICMSA has wanted to believe that the more realistic elements of this Government understood that the continuation of Ireland’s 250kgs derogation from the Nitrates Directive was both absolutely necessary and eminently possible if we were willing to mount a skilful campaign based on the evidence that is already emerging.   No such campaign was ever mounted by this Government and this Minister and consequently we have had our N limits reduced to 220 kgs in defiance of all the evidence – economic and environmental – that the existing 250kgs is perfectly compatible with improving water quality while maintaining the production capacity so indispensable when prices are falling to the extent that farmer revenue will be down by in excess of €2 billion this year”, said Mr. McCormack.

Mr. McCormack said that with this one decision, this Government has put a nail in the coffin of many family dairy farms that have been worked for generations.

“Theres’ no point in being polite here; the Government’s defence of our position was just downright unacceptable and amounted to an abject surrender of what was and is a vital national sector.  Our grass-based dairy sector is the jewel in our agri- crown and the Government – without a murmur of complaint from Minister McConalogue – just handed over an absolutely key component to the EU Commission with nothing coming back to us.   Fiddling around with the maps and trying to localise the impact just compounds the concession and fools no-one. Even today, even after this surrender, farmers cannot check their nitrates figures online and there’s no firm date for this online check facility to be put in place.   The degree of real commitment shown by our Government can be gauged by the fact that they didn’t even travel over to Brussels to make the case.   They were happy to be told off via a video call and that’s just about all they deserved. Everyone connected with this disaster – and I’m specifically including the Government’s backbench TDs – should be ashamed of this whole episode and will have to own the consequences”, concluded Mr. McCormack.

Ends           6 September 2023

Pat McCormack, 087-7608958

President, ICMSA.


Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758

ICMSA Press Office