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ICMSA welcome positive Nitrates changes for calves and concentrates but query “pointless process delay”.

Speaking following a meeting of the Agriculture Water Quality Working Group, the President of ICMSA, Denis Drennan, has welcomed confirmation that revised Nitrates figures will be allocated for calves from 0-3 months and that farmers will receive credit for feeding a lower percentage protein concentrate to their cows, with these changes will apply from 1 January 2024. But he expressed frustration that “once again” farmers are being ‘left in the Limbo’ of uncertainty by the Minister as the actual formal implementation of these measures is going to be delayed through a failure of the Department to move on the matter earlier and EU regulatory processes.

Mr. Drennan said that if people were still wondering why farmers are protesting right across the EU, then they should just look at this case where a simple scientifically proven amendment cannot be formally made without going through a ridiculous regulatory process. He noted that new rules on farmers can be brought in overnight, but when changes are going to benefit farmers, then the “process” leads to ridiculous and pointless delays.

“The changes are welcome and -while these are technical changes to the regulations based on peer-reviewed science – the changes will be hugely positive and practical for individual farmers impacted by the 250kg reduction to 220kgs of N, the net effect is that farmers will be able to retain more of their existing herd without having to rent additional land and export slurry. ICMSA has lobbied intensively for this change with the N figure for a calf from 0-3 months falling from 6kgs of N to 1kg of N. In addition, where a farmer uses on average a 13 percent protein ration on a freshweight basis for the year, the banding will change from 80kg of N to 76kgs for Band 1, from 92kgs to 87kgs for Band 2 and from 106kgs to 98kgs for Band 3”, said Mr. Drennan.

Explaining how these changes will soften the blow of the reduction in 220kgs of N.  Mr. Drennan gave an example of a farmer with 100 cows in Band 3 who had required 42ha to remain under 250kgs of N. That had increased to over 48ha with the reduction to 220kgs of N.   If this farmer opts for the 13% average protein ration on a freshweight basis, to maintain his/her 100 cows, he/she will require 44.5ha.  “That farmer would have been losing 12 cows based on his or her 42ha holding after this change, for which ICMSA lobbied so hard, they will be losing five cows.”  

The ICMSA President said that the regulatory process must be concluded as soon as possible, and these measures must apply from 1 January 2024 providing farmers with options to minimise the impact of the unfair reduction to 220kgs of N, said Mr. Drennan.   

“The retention of the Nitrates Derogation must be a Government priority. This decision is the first positive move from our Government, and it must be followed by much more”, concluded Mr. Drennan.

Ends    1 March 2024

Denis Drennan, 086-8389401

President ICMSA.


Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758

ICMSA Press Office