The Ulster Farmers’ Union have started to prepare its response to the European Commission review of the Northern Ireland Nitrates Action Programme, with the UFU’s Environmental Policy Committee having met recently to discuss the DARD/DOE consultation on this issue. The current Action Programme is finishing its four year cycle and the EU Commission are seeking views on the next four year Action Programme which will begin in 2015.
UFU Environment Chairman John McLenaghan said; “Our response to the review of the Northern Ireland Nitrates Action Programme will highlight the major environmental successes which farmers have already delivered. To date farmers have adapted well to a complicated programme and should take great credit for the efforts and investments they have made in helping improve water quality in Northern Ireland. For example there has been a substantial reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers on our farms and an improved utilisation of manures has significantly increased overall nitrogen and phosphorus efficiency.
“From looking at the DARD/DOE consultation we have however, concerns about a number of proposed changes to the current measures in particular the requirement to cover new outdoor slurry stores from 1 January 2017 and the possible additional bureaucracy around farmers importing or exporting slurry. These proposals if applied could significantly impact on farmers across Northern Ireland adding further restrictions and costs on to the farmer and we will be objecting to these.”
John continued; “We want the next Action Programme for the period 2015-2018 to focus on helping farmers to deliver solutions that will improve water quality rather than relying solely on regulation and enforcement, which are often considered blunt instruments by farmers.”
All UFU Policy Committees will be considering this consultation over the coming weeks and following this internal consultation process, the Union will be submitting a full response to DARD and DOE by 29 August 2014.