The Nitrate’s Action Plan was announced on Monday by Environment Minister Dick Roche and mean the country should now meet the requirements of the EU Nitrate Directive.

The directive aims to reduce the pollution caused by farming, one of the main contributors to the degradation of water quality in Europe.

The primary emphasis of the Irish regulations are on better management of livestock manures and other fertilisers.

The first wave of regulations will come into effect in February and more will be phased in between then and the end of 2008.

“The Regulations provide for a range of measures to strengthen the application of good agricultural practice countrywide and to promote and support sustainable agricultural development,” said Roche.

“They mark a milestone for the protection of Ireland’s aquatic environment while protecting as far as possible the interests of Irish farmers.

“The making of these regulations allows us to pursue with the EU Commission, and other Member States, Ireland’s case for a derogation from the organic nitrogen limit set by the Nitrates Directive.

“I am satisfied that the regulations are agronomically sound and will serve to maintain optimum yields while providing the necessary environmental safeguards.”

There has been consultation on Ireland’s Nitrates Action Programme with the main farming organisations and other interested parties since December 2001.

The Minister thanked the large number of stakeholders who participated at various stages in the consultation process, saying “The process of developing the Regulations has been significantly enhanced by the extent of participation by interested parties.

“I wish to commend in particular the positive role of the main farming organisations. Following consideration of all the submissions received in the latest round of consultations, a number of revisions have been incorporated into the text including several revisions to provide greater flexibility for farmers.”

The pig industry, for example, will be given a 22-month transitional period to give farmers a better chance of making the necessary changes in time.

In the UK Defra is currently in the process of drawing up its own nitrates programme (see related story).

By Sam Bond

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