Sinn Féin spokesperson on agriculture in Northern Ireland, Declan McAleer, wants a more flexible ammonia strategy introduced, one which all farmers can buy into

The Co. Tyrone-based politician said:

“While we support the goal of addressing the impacts of air pollution on the natural environment, we have a number of concerns around some proposed methods of evaluating and reducing ammonia emissions in a future operational protocol.

“We are concerned that a one-size-fits-all approach to ammonia reduction on farms would not be fair, effective or sustainable.

“Farms here vary in size, stock and type of land, and any evaluation of their emissions and sequestrations must consider that.”

McAleer added that farmers have raised concerns about the parts of the ammonia operational protocol that relate in-combination assessments of emissions:

“It appears that, by adopting an in-combination approach, farmers who may have invested in reducing their emissions and taken steps to do that may still not get planning permission, perhaps because neighbouring farms still have high emissions.

“There are situations where, perhaps, a proposed new development is treated as additional to, as opposed to a replacement for, something that may have had high emissions.”

According to the Sinn Féin representative, it is important to note that virtually the whole of Northern Ireland will be impacted by the 7·5km limit contained within the ammonia management measures currently on the table.

He added: “We believe that the proposed approach could fail to achieve some of its intended outcomes in reducing ammonia, as farmers are deterred from upgrading or replacing old buildings.”

McAleer also pointed out that not all the measures in the draft ammonia strategy are practical. He made the suggestion that low emission slurry spreading equipment is not a practical option where farmers are operating in a hill environment.

“We need to look at all the different land types and types of farm across the North,” he further explained.

McAleer is also calling for ammonia thresholds to be consistent across the island, given the trans-boundary location of a number of affected sites.

He continued: “A lot of our bogs and protected areas straddle the border, and they are key to achieving a reduction in emissions across the island.

“The agri-food strategy in the South offers a number of possibilities for increased cooperation on an all-island basis, and that should be considered.”