Nitrates and Derogation Farms

The Nitrates Derogation provides farmers an opportunity to farm at higher stocking rates, subject to certain conditions designed to protect the environment and meet the requirements of the Nitrates Directive.

The Nitrates Derogation is contingent on meeting water quality standards, and these measures are designed to protect water quality. The Derogation is an important facility for more intensive farmers.

Almost 6,500 intensively stocked farmers availed of the derogation in 2020.

Derogation Herd Locations (2019)

Nitrates Derogation

The Nitrates Derogation allows farmers to exceed the limit of 170 kg of livestock manure nitrogen per hectare set down in the Nitrates Regulations, up to a maximum of 250 kg per hectare, subject to adherence to stricter rules. For a Nitrates Derogation application to be valid, all terms and conditions of the Derogation must be adhered to, including the following:

• An annual application must be made online to the Department. No postal applications will be accepted.

• Farming a holding that is at least 80% grass. Have grazing livestock – a derogation is only available in respect of grazing livestock.

• All slurry applied on derogation holdings must be applied only using low emission equipment. 50% of all slurry produced on a derogation farm must be applied by the 15th June 2021.

• Commonage and rough grazing will not be eligible for the derogation allowance of 250 kg N/ha. Chemical fertiliser calculations on commonages/rough grazing will be limited to the ≤170 kg N/ha allowances.

• Clover must be incorporated where grass is being sown.

• Grass measurement and recording must be undertaken or training in grassland management attended.

• Environmental training must be attended.

• A liming programme must be adopted.

• A biodiversity measure from the ALL Ireland pollinator plan must be undertaken.

• Maximum rates have been established for the percentage of crude protein in dairy rations.

• A derogation holding must have sufficient storage for all livestock manure and soiled water produced on the holding

• Have a Fertilisation Plan in place on the holding by 1st March. This plan should be submitted to the Department along with the application form unless the farmer has submitted a fertiliser plan to the Department in 2018, 2019 or 2020.

• Fertiliser plans must be based on soil analysis results dated after 15th September 2017.

• New applicants who do not have soil analysis results must assume Index 3 for 2021 but soil sample analysis, in respect of crop year 2020, must be available and the fertiliser plan amended accordingly and submitted online to the Department before 31st March 2022.

• Fertiliser accounts must be submitted to the Department no later than 31st March of the following year.

• Nitrates Derogation applicants cannot import livestock manure onto their holding

• Derogation information including Terms & Conditions is available on the Department’s website at

More details from Teagasc–regulations/nitrates-derogation/

Co-ops rule out playing any regulatory role related to the proposed Chemical Fertiliser Register

Nitrates rules will be ‘impossible’ to comply with

“Each cow produces about 10,000L of soiled water each year so multiply that by about 500,000 [extra cows in the country]. Each 10,000L contains about 13kg of nitrogen so there’s extra pressure there that’s having an impact.

“We want to keep the [nitrates] derogation, we have two thirds of cows on derogation farms and part of that is to stop the trend in water quality which is negative and 85pc of the nitrogen in rural catchments is coming from agriculture and not spreading soiled water when there’s very little grass growth is one of the measures.”

The Departments Proposal(s) as outlined in the draft RBMP

The Department notes that achieving the objectives of the water framework directive will require new stricter requirements and increased compliance with existing environmental regulations, particularly the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) Regulations.

This will require not only increased knowledge and understanding of the requirements but also increased enforcement of the requirements.

The principal actions for the third cycle with regard to agricultural pressures include;

  1. Nitrates Action Programme: The existing Good Agriculture Practice Regulations are due to expire and be replaced at the end of 2021. The Nitrates Expert Group is working on the development of the new Nitrates Action Programme, which will be implemented by the regulations. It is expected that the new NAP will implement tighter controls on nitrogen and phosphorus, including a proposal for a national fertiliser register.
  2. CAP Green Architecture: New Rural Development Programme Regulations under the National CAP Strategic Plan will underpin the establishment of a new green architecture that aims to deliver and reward positive environmental outcomes, including water, biodiversity and climate mitigation and adaptation objectives.
  3. Consideration will be given to extending and expanding LAWPRO and ASSAP to support the implementation of the new CAP Strategic Plan. There will be an increased focus on sustainability across the entire farm advisory service (both Teagasc and private advisory services). This may include a role in the preparation of Farm Sustainability Plans.
  4. Teagasc will progress the development of a web-based Farm Sustainability Plan that will complement the existing Nutrient Management Planning online tool and support the wider Agricultural Knowledge and Information Systems (AKIS) programme.
  5. The development of a new authorisation system for instream engineering works will strengthen controls of land drainage practices and their enforcement.
  6. Local authorities and the EPA, through the NIECE network, will ensure that compliance assurance (including enforcement) actions for agricultural activities will be further enhanced and ensure that there is an increased targeting of inspections by local authorities based on water quality results, critical source areas and the EPA’s PIP Maps.

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