Farming & Fisheries

‘Red map’ derogation reprieve could save 10,000 from cull

September 26th, 2023 5:50 PM

By Martin Claffey

‘The EPA’s ‘red map’.

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FARMERS in West Cork will learn at the end of the month whether they will retain their current nitrates derogation, amid warnings that cuts could ultimately lead to the culling of 10,000 cows in the region. 

The issue of Ireland’s derogation has left dairy farmers worried for the future, amid confirmation from the EU’s Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevičius, that Ireland’s nitrates derogation is due to be reduced from 250kg per hectare to 220kg from January 1st.

West Cork IFA representative Donal O’Donovan warned that such cuts to derogations could ultimately mean thousands of cows would be surplus and ultimately slaughtered. 

‘This is a West Cork issue more than other parts of the country. Unlike other areas, we don’t have the opportunity to take more land,’ he said.

‘If the rules come in to reduce the derogation it could mean up to 10,000 cows would have to be culled in West Cork. Nobody wants that,’ he said.

A glimmer of hope has surfaced based on the EPA’s water quality ‘red map’, showing areas in Ireland which passed four criteria on water quality set out by the EU Commission.

The much-talked about ‘red map’ highlights areas where water quality additional measures are required. It means that most of West Cork farmers are in the ‘white’ area –  this would mean these farmers in these areas will continue to benefit from the 250kg/ha nitrates derogation, according to West Cork Fine Gael Senator Tim Lombard, who received clarification from Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue at a Joint Oireachtas Committee meeting. On September 30th, Ireland will make an interdepartmental submission to the European Commission which will ultimately decide which areas are in the ‘white’ area and which are in the red area, with red areas seeing reduced derogations to 220kg/ha.

‘The map itself is vague on which areas are in the red and which are in the white. We need to get clarity on which areas will be included – there are areas north of Dunmanway, areas north of Bandon which appear right on the border on the map,’ said Sen Lombard.

Sen Lombard says minor amendments to the maps would take red areas into white, and hopes are high that this may be confirmed after the September 30th deadline.

Like other farmers, Sen Lombard is awaiting confirmation on what happens next on Ireland’s nitrates derogation – and on maintaining future derogations – as it affects him personally. ‘I’m a farmer – on Christmas morning, I milk cows. I use a derogation. If the derogation is cut, I will have to reduce my stock,’ he told The Southern Star.

‘There are very few working farmers in the Oireachtas, and it has been a tough few weeks for farmers. This is a critical issue for West Cork. We need everybody behind the derogation now,’ he said.

The Fine Gael senator has clashed with Minister McConalogue over the issue of derogations, the divide clear during Sen Lombard’s questioning of the minister at a recent Joint Oireachtas committee meeting as he secured clarification on the possiblity of farmers maintaining the 250kg derogation.

West Cork IFA members were briefed by Minister McConalogue earlier this week in a meeting arranged by FF TD Christopher O’Sullivan.

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