The submission deadline for manure export records and NAP derogation applications and fertilisation accounts in Northern Ireland has been extended.

Farmers will now have until March 1, 2021, to submit manure export records to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).

In addition, the deadline for applying for a Nutrients Action Programme (NAP) derogation, and the submission of 2020 fertilisation accounts for derogated farms, has also been extended to March 31, 2021, newly-appointed DAERA Minister Gordon Lyons has confirmed.

However, for farms intending to apply for a derogation, a fertilisation plan must still be prepared on the holding by March 1 and kept updated during the year.

The extensions come as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and is part of the department's effort to adhere to guidance such as social distancing and self-isolating in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

It also takes the pressure off farmers and their agents who along with the agri-food sector are working extremely hard to ensure the food supply chain keeps moving.

Minister Lyons said: “Unfortunately, given the current status of the pandemic, we once again need to consider the impact this is having on the ability of farmers to meet with agents and departmental advisors.

Farmers may need to discuss key business issues decisions such as applying for a derogation, and the preparation of fertilisation accounts and submission of manure export records.

"It is essential that this is done in accordance with Public Health Guidance and Covid-19 restrictions.

“I am, therefore, extending the deadline for submission of manure exports records to March 1, 2021. to ease some of the pressure on farmers and their agents.

“Minister Edwin Poots extended the deadline for applying for a NAP derogation and submitting accounts last year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Again, this year, I am extending the deadline for doing so to March 31, to enable farmers and their agents additional time to correspond and prepare their submissions in a safe manner.

"I would encourage all farmers to check their farm nitrogen loading figures which can be done via the department’s online services and apply for a derogation if necessary.

Farmers who intend to apply for a derogation must still prepare a fertilisation plan for their holding by March 1 and keep it updated during the year.

“I trust that these pragmatic extensions will be welcomed and continues to demonstrate that we are willing to listen to our stakeholders and work collectively with them during this challenging time.”

What's involved in a derogation?

The Nutrients Action Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 (NAP Regulations) set a livestock manure nitrogen loading limit of 170kg N/ha/year.

For farms operating under an approved derogation, this is increased to 250kg N/ha/year, subject to implementing additional measures.

Derogated farms are required to have a fertilisation plan, produce an annual fertilisation account, carry out soil sampling once every four years, have a farm phosphorus balance below 10kg P/ha/year and have at least 80% grassland.