Dáil Éireann - Volume 592 - 18 November, 2004

Written Answers. - EU Directives.

  156. Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food the degree to which she has measured the potential impact of the nitrates directive on agricultural production; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [29624/04]

  Mary Coughlan: The implementation of the nitrates directive is a matter for the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the first instance.

Proposals for a national action programme giving effect to the directive were submitted to the EU Commission in October and preliminary discussions have taken place between the Depart[1541] ment of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, my Department and the European Commission. Proposals for a derogation, allowing farmers to operate at a more intensive level, have also been submitted. Until the discussions with the Commission have been completed, the full terms of the action programme and derogation arrangements will not be known with certainty.

However, Teagasc has undertaken some studies into the likely impact of a number of possible scenarios associated with implementation of the nitrates directive. These indicate that the great majority of farmers are already operating below the general limit of 170 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare specified by the directive. A proportion of dairy specialist producers are operating above that level. However the vast majority of these are operating below 250 kg per hectare, and Ireland has made proposals to the European Commission for arrangements that would allow farmers to continue to operate at that level under appropriate conditions.

My Department will continue to work closely with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in discussions with the European Commission on the action programme. It is my objective, shared by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, to minimise the burden of compliance on farmers generally and to ensure that the future of the commercial agriculture sector is safeguarded.

Question No. 157 answered with Question No. 148.