Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has secured an approval from the EU for the renewal of a nitrates derogation.

DAERA has now finalised the fourth ‘Nitrates Action Programme’ (NAP), which has been in place since 2007 and implements the EU Nitrates Directive to protect rivers, lakes and groundwater from pollution by nutrients from agricultural sources.

In a statement DAERA said that, following a consultation period on the proposed NAP for 2019-2022, it has “carefully considered the issues raised by stakeholder groups”, resulting in a range of changes for the new programme.

These changes include:

  • Removal of the ban on urea chemical fertiliser (subject to further consideration);
  • Removal of the requirement to cover existing above-ground slurry stores (subject to further consideration);
  • Reduced fertilisation plan requirements, along with further simplifications and flexibility to reduce administrative requirements.

Another significant change includes the introduction of a requirement for larger farms to spread slurry using ‘Low Emission Spreading Equipment’; however, the thresholds for what constitutes a ‘large farm’ have been revised up following the consultation.

“The changes we have made to the action programme as a result of the consultation represent a pragmatic and workable approach, while still progressing towards wider policy objectives,” said a DAERA spokesperson.

“This is a significant step forward in protecting the environment while ensuring we have a sustainable agri-food sector. The new action programme will help to ensure the progress that has been achieved in improving water quality in our rivers and lakes over the past 12 years continues,” the spokesperson added.