NIEA stonewalling on ammonia emissions, says UFU president

Barclay Bell's farm, Rathfriland.
Barclay Bell's farm, Rathfriland.

Ulster Farmers’ Union President Barclay Bell has criticised the position taken by NIEA on ammonia emissions saying that there has been no progress towards finding a solution.

The UFU has written to DAERA permanent secretary Noel Lavery to raise its concerns. Mr Bell said that despite this issue being raised with DAERA officials back in May 2017, there has been little movement to date and it appears that NIEA’s approach is even tougher than before.

He added: “DAERA are well aware of our concerns around the science used in assessing ammonia. They have committed to investigating this further through their research programme, however, this will take time. The communication with the industry has been extremely poor and the majority of farmers are completely unaware of the problems it presents.”

The Ulster Farmers’ Union says it recognises the need to deal with ammonia emissions and it is eager to see the recommendations from the Sustainable Agricultural Land Management Strategy (SALMS) Expert Working Group for tackling this issue, which are to be published soon.

“No doubt it will be a challenge but we believe that NIEA is better adopting a long-term approach where government and industry work together to tackle ammonia emissions. A similar approach has already been successfully used to address greenhouse gas emissions,” says Mr Bell.

The Union says the immediate issue of concern is how the department deals with agricultural planning applications that are requiring ammonia assessments. Some of these are FBIS applicants but it is likely that the majority will be outside of this scheme.

“NIEA’s stonewalling is not helping to address the overall ammonia problem, instead it is hindering business development. Many farmers are choosing to withdraw their applications or to continue with construction outwith the planning process, adding significant cost, stress and ultimately delays. We have emphasised the seriousness of the situation to DAERA and that an urgent resolution must be found,” added Mr Bell.