DURING the last few years a number of farmers have been breached for exceeding the 170 kg N/ha/year nitrogen loading limit under the Northern Ireland Nitrates Action Programme by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. As the Nitrates Regulations are part of cross-compliance requirements, any breach will result in a Single Farm Payment penalty.
To comply with the Nitrates Action Programme nitrogen loading limit, farms may adopt a number of strategies which allow them to deal with any surplus organic nitrogen on farm.
This may include exporting slurry, renting additional land, reducing livestock numbers or applying for a derogation if the criteria can be met. In some cases applying for a derogation might be the most cost effective option.
A nitrates derogation allows a higher organic nitrogen loading of up to 250 kg N/ha/year on some farms. All other farms in Northern Ireland must comply with an organic nitrogen loading limit of 170 kg N/ha/year.
The EC insist that farmers applying for a derogation must comply with additional criteria which are similar across Europe. Under the EC rules, any farmer wishing to avail of a derogation have to apply annually to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) by 1 March and must comply with additional measures.
To be eligible for derogation, farms must operate below 250kgN/ha/year from grazing livestock manure; have at least 80% of agricultural land in grassland; shall not exceed a phosphorus balance of 10kgP/ha/year; soil sample at least every four hectares of land every four years and meet other land management conditions. Each year farmers must also prepare and have available on farm by 1 March, a fertilisation plan that should include various pieces of information including the management of manures and chemical fertiliser.
Farmers must also prepare and submit to NIEA a fertilisation account by 1 March for the previous calendar year.
The UFU would urge any farmer who feels that they may need a derogation to seriously consider their options now and if necessary submit an application to NIEA by the 1 March closing date. While the additional requirements may seem off-putting, the derogation option may well be the most suitable option for a farm business.
Approximately 150 farms submitted derogation applications to the NIEA in 2012.
These farmers are all required to submit a 2012 Fertilisation Account to NIEA by 1 March 2013 and an application form if they wish to continue at the higher stocking rate in 2013.
Any farmer submitting a Fertilisation Account should complete this accurately and ensure that the detail submitted meets the criteria set for the derogation to avoid any breaches.
Farmers who wish to apply for a 2013 derogation should request an application form from the NIEA on 028 92623189 or from the NIEA website http://www.doeni.gov.uk/niea/. The deadline for applications is 1 March 2013.