Transitional Arrangements for Phosphorus

MEP Flanagan is calling on Minister Coveney to look at the phosphorus levels allowable under the current Nitrates Action Plan (NAP), to ease the pressure facing some of our most intensive livestock producers at the start of 2017.

The situation centres on the transitional arrangements regarding the phosphorus levels allowable under the current Nitrates Action Plan (NAP) as set out in S.I. 31 of 2014.

The excess kg/HA of Phosphorus allowable under the current plan is to be reduced to zero at the start of 2017. This will cause difficulties for many intensive pig and poultry producers with a small land-base who traditionally export their excess manure to comply with the regulation.

As the NAP itself is due for review in 2017, the next one to run until 2021, Mr Flanagan believes it would be appropriate to extend the transitional arrangements to the end of 2017 to correspond with the existing plan. Changes that are required can then be incorporated into the next four-year tranche of the NAP.

While recognizing that excess phosphorus in groundwater can be a serious problem, recent research shows that in Ireland most soils are index 1 and 2, low in phosphorus.  It is estimated that within the context of the 2020 food harvest strategy, if we don’t address our soil fertility, maintaining phosphorus at optimum levels for grass growth, it will lead to the import of many thousands of tons of extra concentrates to feed the projected increase in stock numbers.  This is neither cost effective nor environmentally sustainable in the long term.

Also in the pipeline at EU level is the new fertilizer regulation.  This aims to open up the market and to provide harmonised standards for organic fertilizers produced from organic materials.   This new regulation could offer solutions and alternative options to intensive livestock producers in managing excess pig and poultry manure.

Concluding, MEP Flanagan urged the Minister to give this matter his immediate attention.  The pig and poultry sector, he said, is of vital importance to Ireland particularly so in peripheral areas with marginal land. These agricultural enterprises can compete on a level playing field with other areas of the country as they are not dependant on the quality and quantity of available land. In addition, the fertilizer they provide to surrounding farmers, who (in the main) are operating in the low-margin sectors of cattle- and sheep-rearing, is a real and tangible spin-off benefit.