Denis Drennan, President of ICMSA.
Pic: Don Moloney

McConalogue told farmers “waiting impatiently” for promised changes to Nitrates Regulations

The President of ICMSA has called on Minister McConalogue to conform that changes to the Nitrates Regulations on which he (the Minister) had made commitments will be delivered “without delay”.”

We are almost two months into 2024 and, bluntly, the time is long past for the Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine to deliver on his commitment to deliver two critical changes to the Nitrates Regulations – changes he has committed to deliver on multiple occasions”, said Mr. Drennan.

 “As a result of the flawed agreement signed by the Irish Government in Spring 2022 with the EU Commission, many farmers are faced with either cuts of up to 26% in their herd size or, alternatively, going out to lease very expensive land that they simply do not need for farming purposes, and which is so expensive that it’s undermining viability. We are also seeing farm families ‘pulling the plug’ on milking cows as a result of these decisions and while we‘re hearing lots of vague promises about flexibility, there’s been absolutely nothing meaningful on this front yet. While all farmers are vulnerable to the changes, farmers milking from 40 to 120 cows are particularly vulnerable and the clear evidence is that we could lose a lot of these farmers, who are the backbone of their rural communities from an economic and social perspective”, he said.

Noting that when the Minister attended the ICMSA AGM last November 3, he had made a commitment to amending the banding figures based on the protein percentage of concentrates fed to cows, as well as amending the N calculation allocated to calves from 0-3 months.   Mr. Drennan said that these proposals, while technical in nature, had the potential to considerably reduce the impact of the reduction from 250kgs of N to 220kgs of N and he added that “critically” the changes have been scientifically verified to be correct and have been peer-reviewed.   According to the ICMSA President, the existing calculations have been found to be either incorrect or too inflexible and the proposal is to introduce flexibilities in concentrate feeding that will have both a positive water quality and climate change impact.    

“ICMSA met the Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine as late as last week where he again committed to the changes and indicated that a meeting of the Agriculture Water Quality Group would take place this week. As of now, there’s no word and the Department has gone to ground yet again.  The Government treatment of farmers on the nitrates issue has been shocking; it has undermined their future viability based on a flawed agreement with the EU Commission. And compounded that by an ongoing policy of poor communication that has to end. ICMSA is calling on the Minister to take control of the situation and immediately implement the flexibilities on concentrate feed and the calf N allocation to which he committed on multiple occasions.  The farmers that took him at his word are waiting impatiently”, concluded Mr. Drennan.

Ends        23 February 2024

Denis Drennan, 086-8389401

President, ICMSA.


Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758

ICMSA Press Office