Home » Derogation decision in Netherlands ‘could be game changer’ – MEP – Agriland.ie

Derogation decision in Netherlands ‘could be game changer’ – MEP – Agriland.ie

The coalition agreement by a number of political parties in the Netherlands to form a new government “could be a game changer” in Ireland’s chances of retaining a nitrates derogation, according to one Irish MEP.

Billy Kelleher, an Ireland South MEP who is running to retain his seat in the European elections next month, was reacting to the coalition agreement of four Dutch parties which included a commitment to reverse the country’s phasing out of the derogation.

According to Kelleher, Ireland “should take hope from this decision”.

“The Netherlands are possibly under more pressure when it comes to nitrates issues than we are. So for them to seek to retain [the derogation] can give us more confidence in our own campaign.”

Under the EU Nitrates Directive, farmers’ stocking rates are limited to 170kg of organic manure nitrogen (N) per hectare. However, farmers who avail of a derogation can stock at rates of 220kgN/ha.

Starting this year, the upper limit of the derogation was reduced from 250kgN/ha, prompting concerns that Ireland would not be able to secure the derogation at all when the current one expires at the start of 2026.

Kelleher commented: “The campaign to retain the 220kgN/ha derogation needs to be ramped up.

“Dairy farmers need to have confidence in…the absolute commitment of the current and any future Irish government to retain the derogation and…that they won’t be left high and dry if they invest in increased on-farm slurry capacity, additional land and other technological solutions.”

However, in order to retain the derogation, the Fianna Fáil MEP said the government “needs to get serious” about the on-farm development of anaerobic digestion (AD) as a solution to the slurry management issue.

He said: “Denmark, which has a significant volume of slurry produced every year due to its pig and dairy sectors, generates 40% of the country’s annual gas consumption from renewable biogas produced by AD.

“Nearly three years ago, the Irish government announced a pilot programme on AD. At the time, I said it was a waste of time [and] that the rest of Europe had already done enough testing for us to have confidence in the science and in its ability to deal with our emissions challenges,” Kelleher added.

“We need real urgency from the government, state agencies, and the farming sector itself about the threat to Irish agriculture and agri-food if the derogation is lost.

“The public sniping needs to end. We need a united front. Forget ‘all of government’. We need an all of society effort to protect the sector, our communities and economic prosperity in the regions,” he said.