Margaret Donnelly: Removing the nitrate waiver would have huge consequences


The eyes of the dairy industry will be back on the Four Courts for the months and likely years to come, having been spared just months from the Glanbia planning saga.

But this time, it feels like the stakes will be even higher.

An Taisce’s decision to legally challenge the government’s nitrates action program is a blow to the dairy industry. Since 2015, the growth of the sector has been strong, with few parts of the country surviving the expansion and increased number of herds.

The availability of the nitrates exemption has fueled and facilitated much of this growth. A loss would have enormous consequences for the industry.

Unfortunately for dairy farmers, policymakers are only going in one direction.

There are only three regions left in Europe with an exemption – Ireland, Denmark and the Belgian region of Flanders. The Netherlands is still seeking an extension to its contract that expired last year, and many farmers there face uncertain prospects for the future. The dairy sector faces a struggle to convince the public of the merits of the derogation. At the moment it fails.

In the meantime, the rules underlying the latest tranche of the exemption are simple for dairy farmers.

In which Independent Farming This week, a family farm in Cork details the scenario their business faces – get more land or reduce the number of cows.

In many areas where there is already a scorching land market, few farmers will find suitable soil readily available. In other areas, dairy farmers desperate for land to maintain cow numbers could see more land being diverted from other sectors, particularly beef.

And it’s no wonder, as beef prices are plummeting and farmers are facing staggering input costs. How many are tempted by the booming real estate market?

It would be somewhat ironic if the end result of increased dairy regulation actually meant more land going into dairy production, not less. Margaret Donnelly: Removing the nitrate waiver would have huge consequences

Fry Electronics Team

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