Commenting on the current review of the Nitrates derogation, the Kilkenny farmer who chairs ICMSA’s Farm and Rural Affairs Committee said that ICMSA is opposed to any additional measures being placed upon farms stocked below 170kgN/ha.
“Farms must be environmentally sustainable but also economically viable” said Maddoxtown’s Denis Drennan. “Placing further restrictions on this cohort of farmers has the potential to undermine their viability.”
Mr Drennan said ICMSA is concerned by suggestions that there are likely to be additional restrictions on farmers that export slurry to other farmers to ensure their stocking rates stays below the 170kgN/ha. He pointed out that almost 5,000 farmers export slurry to maintain a stocking rate below 170kgN/ha and any changes to the rules could have very serious implications for the farmers concerned.
In relation to the Department’s drive to promote blanket use of low emission slurry spreading equipment, he noted that though this was an effective tool to combat greenhouse gas emissions, clear practical barriers existed to its widespread adoption.
“The very obvious fact is that there simply isn’t enough low emission equipment or contractors out there to make this happen. There are also questions around the suitability of this type of equipment for many land types that have to be addressed, as well as the financial costs on farmers”, said Mr Drennan.
In terms of the purchase of such equipment, Mr Drennan confirmed that ICMSA is seeking a 60% grant from TAMS for low emission slurry equipment which must be available to all farmers regardless of age and in addition to the current investment ceilings. “We are also lobbying that farmers should be able to get the VAT back on this equipment and it should qualify for accelerated capital allowances”, continued Mr Drennan.
He said that it was vital that ICMSA’s lobbying was not interpreted as a resistance to new technology: “Farmers will embrace technology and technological solutions but where those solutions are hugely expensive and are being advanced to benefit wider society than we think it’s right that policy helps the farmers concerned to purchase and use the technology for that greater good. CAP Post 2020 presents an opportunity to re-evaluate the use of Pillar II funds and ICMSA is very clear that an Agri-environment scheme that accommodates and ensures the sustainable development of intensive farming must be part of the new schemes under Pillar II post 2020”, concluded Mr. Drennan.