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The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue TD, have today published the Draft Fifth Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) and announced the opening of a public consultation on the Draft NAP Natura Impact Statement (NIS) and the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).

Ireland’s NAP gives effect to the requirements of the Nitrates Directive in Ireland and is a critical piece of legislation implemented by farmers on their farms. A comprehensive review of the Fourth NAP 2017-2021 was undertaken since September 2020. This involved two periods of public consultation and in the region of 700 submissions.

A jointly chaired (DHLGH and DAFM) Expert Group considered all submissions received during public consultation and have made recommendations on changes to the Programme which have been accepted by both Ministers.

The Report has been published on both Departments’ websites along with the Natura Impact Statement (NIS) and Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) which begins a 6-weeks consultation process on both of these documents.

“We would like to extend our gratitude both to the Expert Group and the nearly 700 plus individuals and bodies that made a submission, and we welcome all submissions in the coming weeks on the NIS and SEA to help finalise the Fifth NAP,” Minister O’Brien stated.

“My ambitions are to protect and enhance our water quality and biodiversity while ensuring we continue to produce top-quality food. Securing the Derogation is a key priority and that we meet these multiple ambitions. Once the NAP is finalised, the overall package will assist Ireland’s agri-food sector in working towards its targets under Food Vision 2030, in a sustainable manner,” said Minister McConalogue and he added.

“In particular, this package will pave the way for a formal vote on Ireland’s derogation in the coming months”.

The NAP, to be finalised in early March, and ongoing negotiations with the Commission on this package of measures will clear the way for a formal vote by the EU Nitrates Management Committee on Ireland’s request for a renewal of its derogation under the Nitrates Directive.

This vote is scheduled to take place in March 2022. This derogation allows more intensive farmers to operate at a higher stocking rate subject to adherence to stricter rules. Once a successful vote is secured, the derogation will be incorporated into the Action Programme.

Further Information

The European Union (Good Agricultural Practice for Protection of Waters) Regulations 2017 (S.I. No. 605 of 2017 otherwise known as the Nitrates regulations are subject to review every 4 years with the current review to be concluded by the start of 2022. It is important for all stakeholders to contribute to this important review.

The NAP contains specific measures to protect against nutrient pollution arising from agricultural sources and these measures include maximum fertiliser rates, manure storage requirements, periods when manures and soiled water cannot be spread, establishing a chemical fertiliser register etc.

The closing date for receipt of responses is 26 January 2022. The consultation paper can be downloaded from the Departments’ websites at www.gov.ie/housing and www.gov.ie/agriculture from 11AM, 14 December.