UFU Meets European Commission on Nitrates

NORTHERN IRELAND, UK - The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has met with the Michael Hamell, Head of Agriculture, EU Directorate-General for the Environment, in Brussels this week to discuss the review of the Northern Ireland Nitrates Action Programme.
calendar icon 11 October 2010
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Mr Hamell is the European Commission Official who oversees the implementation of the EU Nitrates Directive in all Member States and is responsible for the current review of the NI Nitrates Action Programme.

The delegation led by UFU Deputy President Harry Sinclair highlighted the major environmental successes since the introduction of the NI Nitrates Action Programme and outlined concerns around the proposed changes to the current measures.

Harry Sinclair said, “We have outlined the very positive achievements by local farmers since the introduction of the first NI Nitrates Action Programme in 2007 to the EU Commission. The farming industry in Northern Ireland has invested over £200 million to meet the requirements of the first Programme and the results have been very positive. There has been a substantial reduction in the use of chemical fertilisers on our farms and nitrogen fertiliser usage is at the lowest levels since 1975. The use of phosphorous in fertiliser is at its lowest level since 1938. Water quality is improving and compliance with the various measures by farmers has been good.”

Mr Sinclair added, “The long term trend shows that nitrate and phosphate in our water bodies is decreasing and this is a result of the efforts and investment by farmers. Based on the improvements and response that have been clearly demonstrated by farmers to date, we are opposed to any further change to the current measures. The current Action Programme was only implemented in full from 2009 and therefore more time is needed to assess the impact of the current rules before these are changed again.”

“We have highlighted our concerns to the Commission regarding changes to rules on farmyard manure, poultry litter and steeply sloping fields and outlined the importance of the derogation allowing the higher rate of organic manures for Northern Ireland. The UFU believe that if the proposed changes were introduced, they would significantly impact on farmers across Northern Ireland.”

The delegation also discussed manure treatment systems including the Rose Energy proposal with the Commission and the review of the Common Agricultural Policy.

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