Government officials will get the ball rolling on Ireland’s application for another nitrates derogation before the year is out.

Department of Agriculture inspector Dr Leanne Roche told a Lakeland Dairies’ water quality farm walk that although the current derogation will not expire until after December 2025, the European Commission will be formally notified later this year that Ireland will be seeking another.

Roche stated that the Commission will draft an implementing decision, but it is the 26 other EU member states which are “ultimately what makes that decision”.

Confusion exists among farmers around the country’s need to apply for a derogation, as well as on who makes the final decision on Ireland’s application, she told the farm walk.

As part of the application process, officials will brief the EU’s nitrates committee with three presentations on agriculture, nitrates rules and water quality in Ireland to give an “overall picture” of why the derogation is being sought.

The first briefing is set for March 2025 and the last for September 2025.

“The Commission will then draft an implementing decision, the text and the conditions that come with that, and that is what goes to the member state vote,” Roche said.

“We are dependent on other member states’ vote to get a derogation.

“That engagement is ongoing and the Government has committed to securing the next derogation, I suppose the Minister for Agriculture, other ministers and the Taoiseach, everyone has said that they are committed to securing the next derogation.”

The Department inspector advised farmers to ensure compliance to give Ireland its best chance of improving water quality and getting another derogation.

Ensuring adequate slurry storage on-farm and appropriately spreading that slurry, are two interconnected areas where farmers must ensure that rules are followed, according to Roche.