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October 2014

1. Introduction

2. Review and consultation

3. Engagement with stakeholders

4. Responses to consultation

5. Summary of key consultation proposals and revisions after consideration of responses

ANNEX A - Summary of comments on consultation and Departmental reply

ANNEX B - Summary of comments on other issues raised by respondents and
Departmental reply

ANNEX C – List of respondents

ANNEX D - Abbreviations

Further copies of this report can be obtained as follows:
By writing to:

Dr Fiona Wilson
DOE Water Policy Team
Regulatory and Natural Resources Policy Division
Department of the Environment
6th Floor
Goodwood House
44-58 May Street
By telephone: 028 9025 4789
By fax: 028 9025 6079
By text phone: 028 9054 0642
By e-mail:

This document can also be accessed through the Departments’ website at: and

1. Introduction

The aim of the EU Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) (the Directive) is to improve water
quality by reducing water pollution caused or induced by nitrates from agricultural sources
and preventing further, such pollution. In particular, a key objective is to promote better
management of animal manures, manufactured fertilisers and other nitrogen-containing
materials spread onto land. The Directive requires EU Member States to set out action
programmes to reduce nitrates from agricultural sources entering the aquatic environment
and address both high nitrate levels in surface and groundwaters and eutrophication in
surface waters. The Directive allows Member States to either designate discrete areas of
land as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) or establish an action programme to be
applicable to the whole territory.

The Directive is currently implemented in Northern Ireland through the Nitrates Action
Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010 (2010 NAP Regulations) supported by a
water quality monitoring programme, guidance and training offered to farm businesses and
an extensive programme of local scientific research on agricultural nutrient management.
The NAP Regulations apply to all farm businesses in Northern Ireland and are the joint
responsibility of the Department of the Environment (DOE) and the Department of
Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) (the Departments).

The 2010 NAP Regulations include measures to implement derogation from the European
Commission (the Commission) permitting an increase in the amount of grazing livestock
manure that may be applied to land from 170kg nitrogen/ha/year up to a limit of 250kg
nitrogen/ha/year, for intensive grassland farms which meet certain criteria. This
derogation is granted by Commission Decision 2011/128/EU which expires at the end of
2014. The derogation is an important measure to facilitate more efficient use of manure in
intensive grassland agriculture in Northern Ireland.

Storage of livestock manures, silage and silage effluent is also regulated in Northern
Ireland by the Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil) Regulations
(Northern Ireland) 2003 (SSAFO Regulations) and there is a reference within the NAP
requiring compliance with the SSAFO Regulations where applicable (hence linking their
enforcement to the cross compliance regime).

In addition, given that eutrophication is the major pollution problem throughout Northern
Ireland’s water environment, the Phosphorus (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (Northern
Ireland) 2006 (Phosphorus Regulations) were brought into operation in 2007, to support

the aims of the NAP. Eutrophication occurs when enrichment of a waterbody by nitrogen
(N) and/or phosphorus (P) leads to accelerated growth of plant life and produces an
undesirable disturbance to the balance of organisms in the water and the water quality. In
Northern Ireland, eutrophication occurs primarily in freshwaters where excess phosphorus
is an important factor in the process and nutrient inputs (both phosphorus and nitrogen)
from agriculture have been identified as a significant source of enrichment. The
Phosphorus Regulations contain measures to control the land application of chemical
phosphorus fertiliser. Both the Phosphorus Regulations and the SSAFO Regulations also
apply to all farm businesses in Northern Ireland and are the responsibility of DOE.

In accordance with the requirements of the Directive to review action programmes every
four years, a review process for the NAP Regulations was initiated in summer 2013, so
that a new action programme can be in place by January 2015. To ensure that similar
measures and technical information in the NAP, SSAFO and Phosphorus Regulations are
consistent with each other and to identify any potential opportunities for streamlining
agricultural nutrient regulation in Northern Ireland, the three sets of Regulations were
reviewed concurrently. The Departments have also initiated an application process to
renew Northern Ireland’s Derogation Decision, to be effective from the same date. The
formal application process involves a number of presentations to the EU Nitrates
Committee (consisting of Member State representatives) on water quality and agricultural
practices in Northern Ireland prior to a vote on the application (probably in December

2. Review and consultation

The findings of the review, including details of research projects, have been collated into
the report “Review of 2011-2014 Action Programme for the Nitrates Directive in Northern
Ireland and associated regulations” (the NAP Review Report 2014) which is available on
the Departments’ websites at:

Having considered the outcomes of the NAP review, the recommendations of the review
groups, and discussions with stakeholders and the Commission, the Departments issued a
consultation seeking views on proposals to:-

 revise the action programme, revoke the 2010 NAP Regulations and make the Nitrates

Action Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 (2014 NAP Regulations);

 revoke the Phosphorus (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 and
make the Phosphorus (Use in Agriculture) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014; and

 consolidate relevant parts of the Control of Pollution (Silage, Slurry and Agricultural
Fuel Oil) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2003 into the 2014 NAP Regulations.

The full text of the consultation paper is available on the Departments’ websites at: and

The Departments invited responses from a range of organisations and individuals
including MPs, MLAs, local councils, farming and business organisations, environmental
NGOs, academic and professional institutions, and other government departments and
agencies. Over 500 organisations and individuals were contacted directly. The
consultation paper was also published on the Departments’ websites and publicised
through press notices and articles in the farming press.

The consultation period ran from 16 June 2014 to 29 August 2014. Late responses were
accepted up to 02 September 2014.

3. Engagement with stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement has played a key role in the development and implementation of
the NAP in Northern Ireland. A stakeholder event was held in November 2013 presenting
the preliminary findings of the review and seeking input from stakeholders of their
experiences of the action programme. The event provided useful and constructive
feedback from stakeholders and all present agreed that continued stakeholder
engagement is vital. The Departments have taken note of the suggestions made by
stakeholders on how to improve the implementation of the NAP during the ongoing review
and revision process.

4. Responses to consultation

A total of 12 responses to the consultation were received of which one provided nil
comment and 11 provided substantive comment. The proposal to carry forward the
measures in the 2010 NAP Regulations into the 2014 NAP Regulations was broadly

welcomed by respondents to the consultation. A number of specific proposed changes
were welcomed by all respondents that commented on them; these were:

 the inclusion of an exemption clause for research and emergency situations;

 the simplification of the nitrogen fertiliser application limits for most cereal crops;

 the updating of values for manure nutrient contents and excretion rates; and

 revisions to the Phosphorus Regulations.

A number of respondents highlighted the importance of robust local research by AFBI in
providing evidence for the changes made to the nitrogen recommendation system for
cereal crops, the phosphorus availability values for organic manures, the phosphorus
recommendations for grassland and the updating of nutrient values. These respondents
emphasised that such local research to underpin the NAP should be continued.
Respondents also expressed support for the continued support from DARD through the
CAFRE advisory service to help farmers understand and comply with the measures in the
NAP and associated regulations.

There were, however, a significant number of comments concerning the detail and extent
of some of the proposed revisions. All comments made during the consultation process
were carefully considered. The following sections provide discussion on a number of key
issues which drew objections or opposing opinions from respondents and the
Departments’ response.

Further detail of other specific comments raised on the proposed Regulations and
associated issues, and the Departments’ response to those comments, are set out in
Annex A and B. A list of the full names of all respondents is attached at Annex C.

4.1. Reference to the Agri-Food Strategy Board’s “Going for Growth” Strategy and
the possibility of further amendments to the 2015-2018 NAP.

Two respondents (UFU and Moypark) raised concern that the European Commission may
suggest that further changes to the NAP should be introduced before the end of the 2015-
2019 Action Programme and stated that this would be unacceptable, as current investment
within the Going for Growth (GfG) strategy could be brought into question by both farmers
and lending institutions. Other respondents (FWTF and UAF) stated they had similar
concerns to the European Commission regarding possible environmental impacts of
expansion in some agricultural sectors, particularly in relation to manure management,
nutrient loading on farms and protection of the improvements in water quality. These

respondents questioned, why, if the European Commission had highlighted concerns
about possible environmental impacts of expansion in some agricultural sectors, measures
had not been identified to address this in the NAP. The FWTF highlighted particular
concerns over plans for expansion of the poultry industry. This respondent also asked for
further clarification of what is meant by the term ‘basic level of protection’ within the
Regulations and asked to know the rationale behind the Departments’ opinion that this
level of protection is adequate.

The Departments note the varying concerns of different respondents. The GfG report
provides advice to Northern Ireland Ministers on action needed for the sustainable growth
of the agri-food sector. It is extensive in scope and aspiration and contains over 100
recommendations, across seven key themes, some of which are likely to have
environmental implications. The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development and the
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment have circulated proposals to Northern
Ireland Executive Ministers on the way forward on the GfG report. These include a plan
identifying action needed, responsibilities and timeframes for delivery on agreed objectives
within GfG. However, these proposals have still to be considered by the Executive and
any agreed actions will then require assessment of their potential environmental impact.

As actions arising from the report have yet to be agreed, the Departments consider that it
is not yet possible to identify specific potential environmental implications of any actions.
Inclusion of additional mitigation measures within NAP at this time, ahead of agreement on
actions, would risk the measures being poorly targeted and possibly overly proscriptive.

However, the Departments maintain the view that, if potential environmental implications
are identified for which the NAP would be the most appropriate vehicle for mitigation
measures, then such measures, having been properly considered and consulted on with
stakeholders, will be implemented as required. If necessary, this may be done through
amending regulations to the 2015-2018 NAP. The Departments wish to highlight that
amending regulations were made to the 2010 NAP Regulations (regarding storage of
poultry litter in fields and the nutrient content of broiler litter). .

Furthermore, the Departments consider that the measures proposed for the 2015-2018
NAP do provide a basic level of protection against possible impacts to waters arising from
proposed agricultural expansion under GfG. The aim of the Nitrates Directive is to
improve water quality by reducing water pollution caused or induced by nitrates from
agricultural sources and preventing further such pollution. The measures required by the
Directive to achieve this, and implemented by the NAP, therefore, include protection

against possible impacts to waters related to any additional nitrate utilisation or production
on farms under GfG.

4.2. Restriction on application of organic manures containing a high proportion of
phosphorus to nitrogen

Two respondents (AIC and NIGTA) considered that while the approach proposed by the
Departments was technically correct, it could cause problems for poultry and pig farmers
and for application of some digestates. Two respondents (UFU and Moypark) considered
that this regulation could have a significant impact on affected farmers as they believed it
could effectively rule out manure applications on large areas of ground in Northern Ireland
due to the reported prevalence of high phosphorus soils across Northern Ireland. They
considered that businesses would be under pressure to find suitable spread-lands, have
additional haulage costs and deal with additional bureaucracy in terms of soil testing and
record keeping. Two respondents (UFU and Moypark) suggested that farmers would be
discouraged from importing such manures due to additional paperwork requirements that
would be imposed and that the measure may result in fewer farms adopting anaerobic
digestion technology. UFU also noted that the partial RIA was unable to quantify the cost
that would be placed on the farming industry due to any redistribution of manures.

These respondents noted that proposed research could result in some of the figures for
the poultry sector being amended and considered that it was unfair to implement the
changes until the results from research are known. In particular, UFU considered that, for
farms with laying hens which had made significant investment to ensure compliance with
the Welfare of Laying Hens Directive, the potential impact of the proposed changes could
result in those investments being questioned, and threaten livelihoods linked to the poultry

These respondents (UFU and Moypark) considered it was unacceptable to introduce such
a measure without any time for the sector to consider their options and at a time when
there is uncertainty due to CAP reform. They were also concerned that the proposed
value for the proportion of phosphorus to nitrogen could be reduced in the future and, if
this was to happen, then there would be considerable impact on the entire agricultural

One respondent (the Equestrian Council for Northern Ireland) noted that the values in the
regulations indicated that horse manure would have a P:N value of greater than 0.25 kg of
total P per 1 kg of total N, so that soil analysis would be required and horse manure could

only be applied to crop phosphorus requirements. The respondent felt it would be very
inequitable to insist that all land receiving horse manure, irrespective of the number of
horses or the size of the holding, needed regular soil sampling when ground receiving
much higher rates of dairy cattle slurry did not.

The Departments wish to highlight that, although good progress has been made in
improvement of water quality since the introduction the first NAP to cover Northern Ireland,
over 50% of rivers and 70% of lakes are still eutrophic or at risk of eutrophication.
Phosphorus run-off from agriculture is one of the main contributors to the eutrophication
process. Research shows that phosphorus run-off increases when additional phosphorus
is added beyond that needed for crop requirement. For manures containing a high
proportion of phosphorus compared to nitrogen, this situation could occur where they are
applied to land within crop nitrogen requirements but the amount of phosphorus applied
exceeds crop phosphorus requirement. The aim of this measure is to try and address this
issue by encouraging redistribution of high phosphorus manures to soils which require
them; in order to help rectify the present phosphorus under-supply situation on 30% of
farmed grassland (soil P ≤ Index 2) and the phosphorus over-supply situation on 57% of
farmed grassland (soil P > Index 2+) across Northern Ireland. The measure will not affect
applications of manures with proportions of phosphorus and nitrogen more in balance with
crop requirements for both nutrients.

CAFRE encourages to farmers and growers to carry out nutrient management when
growing crops of grass, silage and arable crops. Accurate determination of crop
requirement and the nutrients required helps farmers to accurately fertilise their crops at
least cost, make full use of organic manures, improve crop yields and reduce diffuse
pollution. The benefits of periodic soil testing to inform nutrient and soil management are
well established. For those who do not currently soil test, a cost of £11 per field every four
years should, in most circumstances, be offset by savings achieved by matching nutrient
applications with agronomic need.

However, the Departments are mindful that this measure will require adjustment of farming
practices for some farm businesses. They also note that previous research into the
nitrogen and phosphorus contents of broiler litter showed that the phosphorus content of
the litter had reduced significantly due to changes in feed. This, in turn, reduced the P:N
value from 0.36 to 0.21. It is possible (although not certain) that research proposed
(provided funding is available) to commence in 2015 to update the standard figures for
nitrogen and phosphorus content of the remaining poultry manures may show that the

phosphorus content of these manures has also declined and the P:N value of these
manures reduced. Therefore, in order to allow time for adjustment of practices and to
provide consistency in which manures the measure would apply to, the Departments are
content to delay implementation of this measure until 1 January 2017.

The Departments also note the point that for many farms with horses, horses are not the
primary livestock enterprise and the nutrient loading from horse manure only contributes a
small proportion of overall nutrient loading on the farm. This point is equally applicable to
other minor farm enterprises such as rearing of hobby poultry. The Departments accept
that there is little environmental benefit in including high P:N manures produced in very
small quantities from hobby enterprises under this measure and that requiring businesses
with such enterprises to carry out soil testing and additional record keeping would be a
disproportionate regulatory burden. Therefore, in the interests of better regulation, the
Departments are content to amend the proposed measure to exclude enterprises
producing a high P:N manure where total nitrogen loading from the manure is less or equal
to a de-minimis value of 7kg N/ha (this equates to approximately five adult horses on an
average-sized farm).

4.3. Requirement to cover new outdoor slurry storage

One respondent (FWTF) welcomed the proposal to cover new outdoor slurry stores built
from 2017; noting the environmental problems caused by atmospheric nitrogen deposition
and the significant negative impact of ammonia on sensitive habitats in Northern Ireland.
A number of other respondents (UFU, UAS, NIAPA) objected strongly to the proposal,
stating that it would add considerable additional cost to building a store with limited benefit
to the farmer. They were also concerned that this standard would soon be required on all
tanks which would result in a substantial cost to the industry. One respondent (NIAPA)
considered that there was no definition of ‘cover’ or specification. One respondent
(NIACA) suggested that the measure should be amended so that new stores should be
covered within three years of completion.

One respondent (UFU) considered that Northern Ireland is already further ahead in
tackling ammonia emissions than other parts of the UK and, therefore, there is no need to
take any further action at this time. They stated that the National Emissions Ceiling
Directive (NECD) is currently being revised with discussions ongoing looking at a range of
measures to reduce emissions on farms, rather than a focus on covering outdoor storage.

Two respondents (UFU and UAS) also noted practical difficulties with covers on above
ground stores and lagoons and potential health and safety issues from mixing covered
stores or from slurry gas in covered stores.

The 2014 report on the review of the 2011-2014 Nitrates Action Programme recognises
that the UK is currently meeting the 2010 target for ammonia emissions of 297,000 tonnes
established under the NECD and UNECE Gothenburg protocol. However, the proposed
measures within the review of the NECD (as part of the proposed EU Clean Air Package)
seek to set tighter limits, and to impose controls and measures on air pollutants
(specifically ammonia and particulate matter) which are produced from agricultural
activities. These tighter national emissions targets would be more challenging for Member
States to meet.

Furthermore, Northern Ireland has many areas of important ecological value including
sites designated under the Habitats Directive as Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)
and locally designated Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSIs). Many of these,
including blanket bogs, heathland and moorland and some semi-natural grasslands are
sensitive ecosystems which are naturally adapted to low supplies of nitrogen available as
a nutrient. Additional nitrogen deposition (e.g. from ammonia deposition) can affect
vegetation, and land and freshwater habitats in a number of ways including: changes in
the competitive balance between species; changes in plant sensitivity to stresses such as
frost, drought and insect attack; and acidification of soils and waters. High concentrations
of ammonia can also be directly toxic to sensitive vegetation in the vicinity of large
emission sources, such as intensive livestock buildings. Monitoring and modelling data
from the UK Air Pollution Information System (APIS, 2012) shows that 72% of the ASSI
area and 82% of the SAC area in Northern Ireland exceeded critical ammonia loads (the
level above which sensitive vegetation may be damaged) in 2005 and projections are that
these figures are unlikely to change significantly by 2020. Recent data from DEFRA
demonstrates that Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where the percentage of
the total land area exceeding critical load for ammonia is increasing.

86% of UK ammonia emissions come from agriculture. Emissions have decreased since
1990, but at a slower rate than for other major air pollutants. Current projections suggest
that ammonia emissions may decrease over the short term, before rising again in the
longer term (2020 onwards), resulting in 2030 emissions levels being higher than those of
2010. The total atmospheric ammonia loading in Northern Ireland in 2011 was 30.3 kt of
which 28.7 kt (95 %) was contributed by agriculture. Detailed figures for UK agricultural

ammonia emissions indicate that of Northern Ireland’s 2011 agricultural ammonia
emissions, 38 % came from livestock housing and hardstandings, 16 % from storage of
livestock manure (primarily slurry), 29 % from spreading of slurry and other manures, and
12 % from outdoor grazing. 6 % was estimated to have come from application of
nitrogenous chemical fertilisers1.

In light of these issues, the Departments are mindful of the need to future-proof the
regulations with regard to reducing ammonia emissions from agriculture. However, taking
into consideration that revisions to the NECD are not yet finalised, and the comments of
respondents, the Departments have decided not to proceed with the proposal for covering
of new slurry storage for the 2015-2018 action programme. Rather, a further review of
options for the most effective methods for reducing ammonia emissions from storage will
be carried out. Nonetheless, given the potential impact of nitrogen deposition on sensitive
sites, and the increased focus of the European Commission on ammonia emissions, the
Departments would like to highlight that it is very likely that ammonia mitigation measures
will be considered for the 2019-2023 action programme.

Covering of open slurry stores (while best done in combination with other emission
reducing slurry management practices to ensure that overall emissions are reduced) can
reduce ammonia emissions during storage by up to 50% for a standard cover and between
85-90% for an improved cover (ref. English pig industry guidance document 2). New slurry
stores on intensive, PPC licensed farms in Northern Ireland, England and Wales are
already required to be covered. As outlined in the consultation document, there are
various potential options for covering stores. Many of these techniques have been
developed in northern Europe where in some countries slurry stores have been required to
be covered since the 1980s.

The Departments are also very mindful of the need to ensure that on-farm health and
safety risks are not increased by any requirements of the NAP and are committed to
highlighting potential issues, and precautions that should be taken, in an updated NAP
Guidance booklet. However, where stores and covers are properly designed, installed and
maintained, there is no evidence that covering of stores increases risk from slurry gases.
The construction and covering of new slurry stores should be undertaken by competent
contractors using the correct equipment. Tank covers should be designed, installed and

Data obtained from Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, as used in the report: ‘Inventory of Ammonia
Emissions from UK Agriculture 2011’, (Misselbrook et al., 2012). http://uk-

maintained correctly to allow for safe management of slurry gases during storage and
mixing. Slurry gases normally remain within slurry, whether the store is covered or not,
until mixing occurs. Often, covered tanks have permanently installed mixers. In these
circumstances, if the cover remains in place during mixing, health and safety risks should
be contained. Where an “over the top” mixer (i.e. a mixing arm, with mixing paddle
attached, that goes over the top of the store and into the slurry) is used, the tank will need
to be uncovered, at least in part. If the tank cover is opened/ removed for mixing, risks
from slurry gases will then be similar to those from uncovered storage tanks. There would
be an increased risk due to the need for a person/s to work at height to partially remove
the cover to allow access for the mixing arm and to replace the cover once the mixing
process has been completed. As with any farm work, there is a need to ensure that safe
working systems are put in place for carrying out such activities.

4.4. Storage of poultry litter

A number of respondents (UFU, UAS, Moypark) welcomed the agreement to continue to
permit the storage of poultry litter in field heaps. However, one respondent (Moypark)
strongly objected to the change in the length of time that a field heap could be stored from
180 to 120 days. This respondent believed the proposal was impracticable and had the
potential to place farmers in breach of the legislation (as any field heap put in place just
before the closed period would require to be spread at the beginning of February when soil
and weather conditions might prevent spreading). This respondent noted the research
work carried out by AFBI on poultry litter stored in field heaps and, considering that the
report deemed the risk to water quality as negligible, felt the reason for the proposed
change was unjustified.

On the other hand, two respondents (UAF and FWTF) were concerned that the agriculture
industry has not yet progressed a solution for alternative sustainable utilisation of poultry
litter. The respondents were concerned that the storage of poultry litter in fields provides a
concentrated source of nutrients which are prone to leaching and thus present a significant
risk to water quality.

As detailed in the consultation document, the Commission continues to express concern
that storage of poultry litter in fields presents a risk to water quality. Following discussion
with the Commission during the drafting of the 2010 NAP Regulations, a research report
by AFBI, submitted to the Commission in 2011 (‘Minimising Nutrient losses from Poultry

Litter Field Heaps’ (Doody et al., 20123)), demonstrated that poultry litter stored in covered
field heaps posed a negligible risk to water quality if sited correctly and managed carefully
during field heap setup and storage, in accordance with the requirements of the NAP
Regulations and associated guidance. It was also highlighted to the Commission that
reliance on field storage of poultry litter in Northern Ireland is low and, therefore, total
quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus in poultry litter field storage are very low. In
addition, evidence from on-farm inspections shows that poultry litter field heaps are not
posing a high risk of pollution incidents (from 2011 to 2013 only two (low severity) pollution
incidents have been attributed to poultry litter field heaps).

The Departments are satisfied that, until sustainable off-farm utilisation routes for poultry
litter are adequately developed, field storage of poultry litter (prior to land spreading)
represents minimal risk to water quality, provided that heaps are sited correctly and
carefully managed. In order to reinforce this, during the 2011-2014 action programme,
water protection controls in the measure were strengthened and a system of authorisation
of poultry litter field heaps was put in place. The reduction of the length of permitted
storage time from 180 to 120 is a further reinforcement of the water protection controls, in
order to address the Commission’s concerns.

The Departments consider that sustainable off-farm utilisation remains the best long term
solution for poultry litter as it will reduce the overall phosphorus balance of Northern
Ireland agriculture and remove the need for field storage. The Departments are actively
progressing this aim through the “Sustainable Utilisation of Poultry Litter” (SUPL) project.
This project will provide loans at commercial terms to cover up to 40% of the capital cost of
the development of demonstrator plants for the treatment of poultry litter to prove their
commercial, technical and environmental viability. The loan scheme was launched by
DARD and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment on 17 June 2014 and will
be funded up to a maximum of £12m. The closing date for expressions of interest was 15
October 2014. The financial support provided under the SUPL project will assist
technology suppliers to development alternative and sustainable solutions to the practice
of spreading poultry litter on agricultural land.

The Departments recognise the concerns of the respondent (Moypark) regarding
potentially unsuitable spreading conditions in February and the need to ensure that the
change in length of permitted storage time does not lead increased environmental

Doody, D. G., Foy, B., Bailey, J. and Matthews, D. (2012). Minimising Nutrient Losses from Poultry Litter
Field Heaps. Nutrient Cycling in Agro-ecosystems. 92 (1), 79-90

damage. It is also evident that a situation where compliance with the measure could lead
to non-compliance with other measures within the Regulations (“Requirements as to the
manner of land application of fertiliser to any agricultural land”) would not be in keeping
with equitable regulation. The Departments intend, therefore, to amend the offences
relating to exceeding the permitted length of storage time for field heaps (of both poultry
litter and farmyard manure), so that they are no longer “strict liability” offences. This
means that if a controller has a reasonable excuse for not complying with the measure,
non-compliance would not be an offence. (Specifically, this would apply if the controller
could demonstrate that soil or weather conditions within the time limit were such that
spreading would cause a breach of another regulation).

Two respondents (UFU, UAS) opposed the proposal to place an impermeable cover on
poultry litter stored in unroofed middens. They stated that the action was impractical, had
cost and disposal implications and, as middens already require effluent collection facilities,
would have no environmental advantages. They also questioned the benefit to botulism
control as vermin could still access the litter stored under the cover. Furthermore, one
respondent (UFU) stated that covering poultry litter would result in an increased risk of fire
(as heat produced during the decomposition process would be prevented from escaping).
On the other hand, one respondent (Moypark) agreed with the proposal, which they
already recommend to contracted farmers.

The Departments would highlight that although covering may not prevent access by some
vermin, it does prevent scavenging birds such as crows potentially transferring carcasses
to grazing land, thus reducing the risk of botulism spread. Poultry litter field heaps and
middens on PPC licensed farms are already required to be covered. This indicates that,
while there may be practical difficulties, the procedure can be carried out.

In addition, the Departments consider that, if properly managed, covering poultry litter in
unroofed middens will result in minimal run-off to collect and store which is a benefit to the
farmer. Although it has not been quantified, it is likely that the practice should also have
environmental benefits in reduction of ammonia emissions.

However, having considered the views of respondents, and the fact that many poultry litter
middens are already covered, the Departments do not propose proceeding with this
revision at this time but will instead highlight the disease control and environmental
benefits of the practice in guidance. The Departments are aware of some reports of fires
occurring in both uncovered and covered manure heaps (including poultry litter heaps) and
will also seek to address this issue in guidance.

4.5. Submission of manure export records to NIEA

One respondent (Moypark) welcomed this proposal. On the other hand, several
respondents (UFU, NIACA, NIAPA, UAS) objected strongly to it and stated that there was
no evidence that submitting import/export records to NIEA would improve water quality,
but would result in significant additional bureaucracy for farmers. One respondent (UFU)
stated that to consider introducing this new requirement in 2015 would be unacceptable
as, due to the introduction of the CAP Reform proposals, there is likely to be changes to
who is farming certain parcels of land and increases in the number of farmers having to
export slurry. One respondent (NIAPA) noted that the fact that records are available for
inspection should be sufficient.

These respondents (UFU and UAS) also considered that the current proposal was not
workable for a number of reasons including the deadline for submission being during a
busy month, lack of clarity on how the system would work and when penalties would be
applied. They expressed concern that additional paperwork may make some farmers
reluctant to import slurry, potentially resulting in more intensive farms being unable to
source spread-lands in Northern Ireland and having to transport slurry across greater

The European Commission has drawn attention to a deficiency in the information available
on manure exports and imports by farms, both within Northern Ireland and cross-border,
and the drawbacks associated with this, in terms of identifying farms with high nutrient
loadings and adequately accounting for the end-use of different manures. The
Departments consider that the proposed measure will address this deficiency and help
reduce possible over-application of manure and associated nutrient loss to water, with
minimal additional administrative burden for farm businesses. The Departments note that,
under the 2010 NAP Regulations, farmers are already required to keep these records on
farm. The only additional task is posting or emailing them to NIEA. NIEA have undertaken
to provide a standard form for keeping of these records which will be available to print off
from the NIEA website. Subject to resource availability, consideration will also be given to
the development of an on-line submission system.

31 July was chosen as a submission deadline as this is a month after the deadline for
records to be prepared on-farm for the previous calendar year. However, in response to
respondents concerns, the Departments are content to move the date to 31 January (i.e.
one month after the calendar year to which the records apply). Therefore, the first export
records will be due to be submitted by 31 January 2016 (for the calendar year 2015). In

order to allow time for farm businesses to become familiar with the process, late
submission of records will not be considered an offence until 2017. The Departments
would also like to clarify that only exporting farms will be required to submit a record, which
will include details of the importing farm.

4.6. Revision of the Phosphorus Regulations

All respondents that commented (UFU, UAS and NIAPA) welcomed the proposed
revisions to the Phosphorus Regulations. One respondent (UFU) noted genuine concerns
regarding the low amounts of phosphorus (P) now generally being applied and the
resulting impact this is having on crops/grass productivity.

The Departments recognise that there is little doubt that under-supplying phosphorus to P-
depleted soils (Index 0 and 1) (owing to availability of phosphorus in organic manures
being set at 100% in the regulations) is likely to result in sub-optimal performance by grass
and arable crops. It is also clear that soil P Index 2 (16-25 mg Olsen-P l-1) is too broad a
target Index range for grassland, since there is now evidence that growth of both cut and
grazed swards is likely to be phosphorus-limited when Olsen-P drops into the lower half of
this range i.e. 16-20 mg P l-1.

To address these issues, the proposed Phosphorus Regulations contain two key
modifications compared to previous versions. The available phosphorus contents of
manures are now set at 50 % or 60 % of total phosphorus contents (as opposed to 100 %
in the previous regulations) when applied to grass or arable land at Index 0 and 1. This is
in keeping with recommendations in RB209 8th Edition (2010) and also with changes
approved for Ireland (ROI) following the second review of its NAP. For grassland, the
Index 2 range has also been split into a 2 - (16-20 mg Olsen-P l-1) ‘P-building’ Index range
and a new 2+ (21-25 mg Olsen-P l-1) target Index range, and higher rates of phosphorus
application are recommended for cut and grazed grassland within the 2 - range (also in
keeping with changes approved in the Irish NAP).

While the above changes to the Phosphorus Regulations have been proposed to help to
ensure that adequate amounts of phosphorus are applied to land, where required, in order
to build-up and sustain optimal levels of production, research by AFBI has shown that
more than enough phosphorus is already being brought into Northern Ireland in fertilisers
and concentrate feeds to fully meet the phosphorus requirements of all grass, arable and
horticultural crops. In other words, the proposed changes to the Phosphorus Regulations

in no way justify sizeable increases in chemical phosphorus import or usage, but instead
are intended to encourage the re-distribution of existing levels of manure and chemical
phosphorus resources in order to help rectify the present phosphorus under-supply
situation on 30% of farmed grassland (soil P ≤ Index 2) and the phosphorus over-supply
situation on 57% of farmed grassland (soil P > Index 2+) across Northern Ireland.

4.7. Transfer of silage and slurry storage measures from SSAFO to NAP

One respondent (NIAPA) noted and one respondent (UFU) objected to this proposal as
they considered it would result in more measures being brought under the cross-
compliance regime, leading to the potential for more Single Farm Payment conditions and
potential penalties and would be detrimental to local farmers. They were concerned, in
particular, with controls on baled silage being brought under cross compliance without any
environmental gain. The respondent rejected the conclusion that there would be no
increased regulatory burden on farm businesses as a result of this transfer as they
believed there is much more work and evidence required [for NIEA] to pursue a case
under regulations than under cross-compliance.

While the Departments recognise the respondents concerns, they wish to highlight that
almost all the silage and slurry measures in the SSAFO Regulations are already subject to
cross compliance, due to the reference to compliance with SSAFO contained in the 2010
NAP Regulations. The only silage and slurry related measure identified as currently sitting
outside the cross compliance regime concerns the storage of silage bales. NIEA advises
that an average of less than one identified breach of the SSAFO regulations each year is
related to silage bale storage. The number of breaches likely to be identified should not be
affected by the transfer of the measures from one set of regulations to another. The
Departments consider that the benefits of streamlining agricultural nutrient management
regulation, both for the regulator and the agricultural industry, outweigh any perceived
increase in regulatory burden.

The Departments had also proposed in the consultation that, following the transfer of
silage and slurry measures from SSAFO to NAP, the agricultural fuel oil storage measures
in SSAFO would be transferred to the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) Regulations
(Northern Ireland) 2010 (OSRs) and the SSAFO Regulations would then be revoked.
However, as DOE has already committed to reviewing the OSRs in 2016, the Department
has concluded that it would be more resource efficient, and more transparent for
stakeholders, to delay the proposed transfer of measures until 2016 when it could be done
after consultation along with any other required amendments to the OSRs that might be
identified during the review.

5. Summary of key consultation proposals and revisions after
consideration of responses.
The key changes now proposed to the three sets of regulations, following consideration of
responses to the consultation are summarised below. (There are also some minor
changes proposed to improve clarity or address legal drafting issues).

5.1. 2014 NAP Regulations
The consultation proposed that the measures in the 2010 NAP Regulations should be
carried forward into the 2014 NAP Regulations with the exception of the following key
changes summarised below4.

Regulation 2 (Purpose of Regulations) is included to explain that these Regulations give
effect to a Nitrates Action Programme for Northern Ireland and inclusion of a reference to
the fact that the measures provide protection against possible adverse impacts to water
quality arising from any proposed agricultural expansion under the “Going for Growth”
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

Regulation 5 (Duty of the controller to prevent water pollution) is expanded to cover all
types of fertiliser and entry or risk of entry of fertiliser into groundwater.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

Regulation 7 (Exemptions granted by the Department) is included to permit limited,
authorised exemptions to facilitate the activities of government and institutes/agencies
authorised by government for research and emergency situations.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

Regulation 8 (Periods when the land application of fertiliser is prohibited) is expanded to
cover all types of fertiliser
The Departments intend to revise this change to allow potassium to be applied to
grassland during the closed period.

References to regulations refer to the draft 2014 NAP Regulations

Regulation 9 (Requirements as to the manner of land application of fertiliser to any
agricultural land) is expanded to cover all types of fertiliser and amended to simplify
wording relating to frozen land, clarify wording relating to rainfall and reinforce protection of
water bodies when fertiliser is spread on a slope.
The Departments intend to proceed with these changes.

Regulation 12 (Measures governing the limits on land application of nitrogen fertiliser to
land other than grassland) is amended to specify that, for most cereal crops, the nitrogen
applications shall take account of the recommendations contained within the DEFRA
Fertiliser Manual and shall in no case exceed the limits set out in the regulations.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

Regulation 14 (Measures governing the limits on land application of organic manures with
a high P to N value) is included to specify that organic manures containing more than 0.25
kg total phosphorus per kg of total nitrogen must not be applied to land unless crop
phosphorus requirement is demonstrated.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change but delay implementation until
January 2017 and include a “de-minimis” exemption for hobby enterprises.

Regulation 17 and Schedule 2 (Manner of storage of slurry) are included to transfer
details of storage requirements for slurry from the SSAFO Regulations to the 2014 NAP
Regulations and specify that outdoor slurry storage, constructed or substantially modified
after 31st December 2016, must be covered.
The Departments intend to proceed with the transfer of slurry storage measures
from the SSAFO Regulations. They do not intend, at this time, to proceed with the
requirement to cover new outdoor slurry storage. Scientific and policy
developments on the issue of ammonia emissions from storage will be reviewed
again for the development of the 2019-2023 action programme.

Regulation 19 (Manner of storage of poultry litter and location of storage facilities) is
amended to specify that poultry litter stored in a midden must be covered with an
impermeable membrane or other impermeable cover and that the length of time poultry
litter can be stored in field heap is reduced from 180 to 120 days.
The Departments intend to proceed with the reduction in the length of time for field
storage but do not intend to proceed with the requirement to cover poultry litter
stored in middens at this time.

Regulation 22 and Schedule 3 (Making and storage of silage) are included to transfer of
details of requirements for making and storing of silage from the SSAFO Regulations to
the 2014 NAP Regulations.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

Regulation 23 (Cover in winter) is amended to change the date for complying with the
stipulated conditions from harvest until “15 January” and to remove the option of leaving
the land cultivated with a rough surface after harvest of certain crops.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

Regulation 26 (Types of records required) is amended to require that records of exports
of organic manures should be submitted annually to NIEA.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change but to revise the submission
deadline to 31st January and allow for late/non submission during the first year of
operation not to be considered an offence.

Schedule 1 (Criteria as to nutrient management) is amended with updates to a number of
values in different tables, including nitrogen excretion rates for goats, changes in livestock
categories and nitrogen and phosphorus contents of pig (and possibly poultry) manures.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

5.2. The SSAFO Regulations

The silage and slurry aspects of the SSAFO Regulations are deleted, as the provisions will
now be included within the 2014 NAP Regulations.
The Departments intend to proceed with this change.

After this is completed, the agricultural fuel oil storage aspects of the SSAFO Regulations
will be transferred to the Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (Northern Ireland) Regulations
2010 and the SSAFO Regulations revoked.
The Departments intend to delay this change until the scheduled review of the Oil
Storage Regulations in 2016.

5.3. The Phosphorus Regulations

Regulations 3 (duty of the controller to prevent water pollution) and 4 (requirements as to
the manner of land application of chemical fertiliser) are deleted as the provisions will now

be included within the 2014 NAP Regulations.

Regulation 5 (Exemptions granted by the Department) is included to supplement the
exemption provisions proposed for the 2014 NAP Regulations.

Regulation 7 (Duty of controller to provide information) is revised to more closely reflect
the wording of the record keeping requirements of the NAP Regulations.

Regulations 9 (Notices) and 10 (Appeals against notices requiring works etc.) are included
to more closely reflect the enforcement provisions of the NAP and other environmental

Schedule 2 (Criteria as to nutrient management) is amended with values included for
phosphorus recommendations for grassland and revised phosphorus availability values for
organic manures.

The Departments intend to proceed with all proposed changes to these Regulations.

Summary of comments on consultation and Departmental reply
(please see Annex C for list of non-abbreviated names of respondents)

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

Regulation 3 – (Interpretation) amendments of certain definitions and inclusion of additional definitions
UFU Definition of “Controller” and “Nitrates Controller The Departments recognise that these definitions may become
Agreement” redundant in many cases, but they may still be needed for
The respondent suggested these definitions may need revised to assessing previous years’ (pre-2015) records and for farms not
take into account the new definition of an active farmer under claiming direct aid payments. The Departments accept that there
CAP report from 2015. The respondent questioned the need for is a discrepancy in various current definitions of “Nitrates
a definition of a “Nitrates Controller Agreement” as controller Controller Agreement” and will address this within the finalised
agreements [for SFP claimants] will not be permitted from 1 2014 NAP Regulations and accompanying new guidance.
January 2015 onwards, due to the change in definition of an
active farmer under CAP reform. They suggested the definition
of a Nitrates Controller Agreement should remain in within
guidance but that there is no requirement for a strict legal

The respondent noted a discrepancy on the definition of “Nitrates
Controller Agreement” within the NAP guidance booklet (and the
draft 2014 NAP Regulations) and the explanation of the term
within the text of the same guidance. The respondent also noted
that some parties have incorporated other elements within their
specific Controller Agreements to avoid multiple agreements for
certain field parcels, which would be ruled out due to the wording
‘it does not affect other Single Farm Payment obligations or land
rental agreements’.
UFU, Moy Definition of “Dirty Water” This change is linked to one of a number of minor changes to the
Park These respondents were concerned that the inclusion of a “Criteria for Nutrient Management” schedule to update nutrient
phosphorus limit in the definition might change what is values for different manures, including dirty water, and bring them
considered as slurry and what is dirty water on farmyards; into line with the current edition of RB209. The changes also set
impacting on the significant investment which has been out tables in the schedule to more closely align with those in

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

undertaken. guidance booklets, to give fuller and more consistent information
for farmers, advisors and regulators.

As there was no intention to change the definition, the
Departments are content to retain the definition from the 2010
NAP Regulations. However, to maintain the improved consistency
between the regulations and the guidance, the Departments
propose retaining the phosphorus value in the schedule table, with
a footnote to advise it is a ‘guideline value for information only’.
UFU, AIC, Definition of “Crop requirement” The Departments consider that, due to the inclusion in the new
NIGTA One respondent was concerned that the definition of crop regulations of the measure restricting the use of manures
requirement has been changed to include phosphorus as well as containing a high proportion of phosphorus, the definition must
nitrogen. They considered this definition was not relevant to refer to phosphorus as well as nitrogen. The Departments agree
these regulations and complicated the measures where it was with the suggestions to make the definition more general and also
mentioned. The other respondents suggested the definition the need to be more specific when referring to crop requirement
should either refer to nitrogen applications specifically in the within the regulations. These points will be addressed in the
closed period or refer to all chemical fertilisers at any time. finalised drafting.
UFU Definition of “Heavy rain shower” and “heavy rain” The Departments accept that the inclusion of both definitions may
The respondent highlighted that the proposed definitions of lead to confusion and propose to remove the definition of “heavy
“heavy rain shower” and “heavy rain” were confusing and rain shower” from the finalised Regulations.
overlapped with each other.
Regulation 5 - expansion of regulation to cover all types of fertiliser and specification that a controller must not permit entry or risk of entry
of fertiliser into groundwater.
UFU, GSNI This respondent objected strongly to this proposed change and The Departments note the respondent’s comments but would
considered that the “risk of entry” wording is too vague. This highlight that the proposed change of wording would apply only to
respondent was concerned that almost any agricultural activity groundwater and not to waterways. In accordance with the
involving fertilise could result in a ‘risk of entry’ to a waterway current wording, breaches for direct or indirect entry of fertiliser to
under the proposed wording. waterways are only recorded where there is visible pollution, or
direct, traceable run-off to a waterway, and must be properly
The respondent also stated that farmers are currently breached evidenced.
under this regulation even where there is no indication of water

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

pollution and proposed that the wording should be amended to The Departments would also highlight that the example given by
ensure it is only used in cases where water pollution is identified respondent concerns two separate non-compliances: Regulation 4
or there is an obvious link to a waterway. (as outlined above) concerns pollution; Regulation 11(4) concerns
the fabric and management of storage. On occasions, multiple
The respondent questioned whether NIEA, when inspecting NAP non-compliances may be recorded. However, in accordance
against this measure, apply two breaches/penalties to the same with EC rules, DARD will only apply one cross compliance penalty
alleged offence, i.e., a slurry store or silo is often breached under (the highest) for multiple NAP breaches.
Regulation 11(4) in the 2010 NAP Regulations and also
breached under Regulation 4 as the defect has allegedly caused The Departments consider that the amended wording will help
nitrate fertiliser to directly/indirectly enter a waterway. improve consistency with other environmental legislation
regulating discharges to groundwater. In particular, the
A second respondent commented that any form of land Departments would highlight that the Groundwater Regulations
spreading or fertiliser application would result in entry of nitrogen (Northern Ireland) 2009 contain similar wording. These
into groundwater and how this would be regulations are a GAEC measure for cross compliance. Concerns
enforced/proven/disproven in practice would be difficult. They about practicalities and enforcement, including clarification of what
felt that further guidance should be provided to farmers on would be considered ‘risk’, will be addressed in accompanying
application within high groundwater vulnerability areas new guidance for the regulations.
AIC, NITGA These respondents felt that the controller’s duty should be to The Departments note the respondent’s comments but would
minimise the risk of nitrogen and phosphorus/fertiliser nutrients highlight that the respondents suggested wording would be more
entering any waterway and entering water contained in any broad-ranging than both the current or proposed wording, and less
underground strata. However, identifying breaches would be focussed on actual pollution or traceable run-off. It would,
problematic and difficult to regulate. therefore, be more difficult to provide guidance for both farmers
and regulators and could potentially cause overlap with
compliance with other measures, making regulation less equitable.
Regulation 8 - Expansion of regulation, on periods when the land application of fertiliser is prohibited, to cover all types of fertiliser.

UFU, UAS, These respondents stated that the demonstrable crop The Departments note the respondents’ comments and intend to
AIC, NIGTA requirement clause is vital and must be explained fully to local address explanation of the demonstrable crop requirement clause
farmers to ensure that crop needs, particularly for phosphorus in accompanying new guidance for the regulations.
and potassium during the closed period are being met.
NIACA The respondent felt there should be flexibility on dates for The Departments note the respondent’s comments but would
spreading fertiliser and manure, depending on weather highlight that the inclusion of closed periods for the land

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

conditions especially in late October and January for the application of certain types of fertiliser is mandatory in an action
spreading of organic manures. programme under the Nitrates Directive and the requirement
within the Directive for closed periods is based on extensive, peer-
reviewed scientific research.

Closed periods promote best practice to obtain maximum benefit
from nutrients in fertilisers for crop growth while protecting the
environment. Organic manures, including slurry, are a valuable
source of plant nutrients. The aim of the closed period is to
encourage application of organic manures (and chemical
fertilisers) under favourable conditions when the nutrients will be
utilised by growing crops and prevent their application to land
when the potential for loss of nutrients to both surface waters and
groundwater is highest.

The dates for the closed periods specified within the Northern
Ireland action programme are based upon robust local research
which led to the production of a scientific report5 in 2002 on work
to support the introduction of the first NAP to cover the whole of
Northern Ireland in 2006, including research on the impact of
slurry spreading during winter time on the environment. The
scientific evidence shows that, in climatic regions such as
Northern Ireland, during November, December and January, the
plant growth rate is very limited by low soil temperatures, short day
length and wet soils. This, combined with high autumn and winter
rainfall, leads to the risk of nutrient loss being greatest from
autumn and winter application of organic manures. In addition to
causing short term pollution problems, nutrient enrichment of
surface water contributes to eutrophication which is a widespread
problem in Northern Ireland’s rivers, lakes and loughs; and a large
proportion of this nutrient enrichment is attributable to agriculture.

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

Research shows that the potential for loss of nutrients to water
resulting from the land application of organic manures is greatest
in the months when drain-flow and river-flows are highest. Hence,
the length of the closed period for spreading organic manures
should be a balance between risks of loss to water and likelihood
of nutrient uptake. For Northern Ireland, January, December and
November have been calculated as the three highest flow months
(in decreasing order).

However, the analysis of flows and runoff show that October and
February are the next highest flow months, indicating a significant
potential for nutrient losses associated with manure applications in
these months. During the development of the 2007-2010 NAP,
consideration was given to including these months in the closed
period. The relative environmental benefits were weighed against
the disruptive effects on agricultural practices and production, and
the responses of stakeholders to consultation were also taken into
account. Following this assessment, the closed period for organic
manures was fixed at 15 October to 31 January.

Flexible dates for the beginning and end of the closed period could
lead to longer, as well as shorter, closed periods in some seasons.
The proposal would be likely to increase regulatory burden on
farm businesses by causing uncertainty over the length of closed
period which would apply each year and the manure storage
capacity required to comply with it.
AIC, NIGTA These respondents were concerned with the proposals for closed The Departments accept that potassium (K) has no known
periods to cover all types of fertiliser and felt that the measure negative environmental effect on water quality. High yielding
should only refer to chemical nitrogen and not all chemical silage crops have a very high demand for potassium and this is
fertilisers. They stated that there is no scientific basis for exacerbated when the soil indices are low. The recommendation
including potassium in the closed period for environmental tables in RB209 for phosphorus and potassium for grass show
reasons and that driving potassium applications to earlier in the that when potassium is low, silage crops should have very high
year could lead to nutrient imbalances by overloading with applications of potassium (up to 340 kg K2O/ha for 3 cuts) and

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

potassium at peak uptake times. The respondents also they recommend that the potassium dressing for first cut silage be
questioned the scientific rationale for including phosphorus in the split between autumn and spring. This is to avoid excessively
closed period and asked if there are any breaches in the rules for high applications in the spring which can result in luxury uptake of
compound nitrogen fertilisers being applied in the closed period. potassium by grass in preference to magnesium and can lead to
deficiency of magnesium in cattle and cattle deaths.

In most cases this high requirement for potassium for silage crops
can be met with applications of slurry both in the autumn before
the closed period and also in the spring. As cattle slurry is a good
source of this nutrient the current DARD and CAFRE advice is to
apply slurry to grow silage crops. Better still, farmers should carry
out a soil analysis and then accurately calculate fertiliser inputs,
but the basic advice of utilising the nutrients in organic manures in
the silage crops would still stand in the vast majority of cases.

The Departments are content to include a caveat in the
regulations to allow specifically for potassium application on
grassland during the closed period if there is a demonstrable crop
need. This would allow farmers to correct low potassium soils
where they had limited supplies of organic manures. However,
the caveat will not be extended to phosphorus which can have
negative environmental impacts on water quality and is proven to
be susceptible to loss during run-off events, which are most
prevalent during winter months when soil moisture contents are

NIEA have not recorded any breaches of the closed period for
compound nitrogen fertilisers.
Regulation 9 - Expansion of regulation, as to the manner of land application of fertiliser to any agricultural land, to cover all types of
AIC, NIGTA These respondents supported the proposals to extend this The Departments note the respondents’ comments; however, the
measure to cover all types of fertiliser but commented that inclusion of these controls in an action programme is mandatory
controls based on definitions of rain and risk assessments for under the Nitrates Directive.

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

slopes did not lend themselves to a prescriptive action
programme and would better placed in WFD Delivery Plans.
UAS Land application of fertiliser in an accurate and uniform The respondent’s comment is noted. However, the aim of this
manner – Respondent noted that new technology used in measure is to prevent significant non-uniform and over-application
precision farming of arable crops, allows inputs to be adjusted to of fertilisers in some areas of fields compared to others, which
accommodate in-field variability with the potential for could lead to nutrient loss and water pollution. It does not stifle
considerable environmental as well as financial benefit. The innovations in precision farming as adjustments to address in-field
respondent felt that legislative requirements should not stifle variability would be considered an improvement in accuracy.
innovation which can now adjust applications according to crop
Regulation 9 - Simplification of wording of regulation, as to the manner of land application of fertiliser to any agricultural land, relating to
frozen land.
UFU The respondent expressed concern about the practicalities of this The respondent’s comment is noted. NIEA advise that
proposed change and stated that the current wording is clear and compliance with this measure has been high and that periods of
the current controls are adequate. The respondent proposed that the year when frozen ground occurs generally fall within the
if the change was made then “frozen land” should be defined as closed period when fertiliser would already not be applied.
land that remains frozen after midday. However, the Commission has questioned whether the current
wording of the measure adequately implements the Nitrates
Directive. The Departments consider that the amended wording
will address this query and help clarify that the prohibition applies
to all frozen land, regardless of the length of time it is frozen for.
Concerns about practicalities and enforcement will be addressed
in accompanying new guidance for the regulations.
Regulation 9 - Clarification of regulation, as to the manner of land application of fertiliser to any agricultural land, that land application of
fertiliser should not take place when heavy rain is either falling or forecast.
UFU The respondent highlighted that there have been a very small The Departments consider that it is reasonable to reinforce and
number of breaches under this measure and, therefore, did not clarify that fertiliser application should not take place during heavy
see any environmental benefit in making this change. The rain due to the high risk of this practice causing environmental
respondent expressed concern that the proposed change may damage such as soil erosion and water pollution through run-off.
lead to circumstances where fertiliser spreading has begun and Concerns about practicalities and enforcement will be addressed

Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

there is unforecast rain, resulting in the farmer being in breach of in accompanying new guidance for the regulations.
the first condition of this measure.
The Departments accept that the inclusion of the phrase “heavy
The respondent was also concerned with the inclusion of the rain shower” may lead to confusion and propose to remove it from
phrase “heavy rain shower” and highlighted that the proposed the finalised Regulations.
definitions of “heavy rain shower” and “heavy rain” were
confusing and overlapped with each other.
Regulation 9 - Specification that fertiliser application to grassland with an average incline of greater than 15% and other land with an
average incline of greater than 12% is not permitted within 30m of lakes and 15m of other surface waters for organic manures and 10m of
lakes and 5m of other surface waters for chemical fertilisers.
UFU The respondent considered that the current controls were The respondent’s comment is noted. However, the Commission
adequate to protect water ways and questioned whether there has questioned whether the current wording of the measure
would be any environmental benefit of the proposed change or adequately implements the Nitrates Directive. The Commission
scientific evidence to support it. bases its query on information in the report: “Recommendations
for establishing Action Programmes under Directive 91/676/EEC
The respondent also raised concerns that the proposed sizes of concerning the protection of waters against pollution caused by
buffer strip would exclude large amount of land from production nitrates from agricultural sources” which can be accessed from the
by prohibiting fertiliser application which could have a significant webpage:
negative impact on the farmers forced to comply with this nitrates/studies.html
measure. The respondent was also concerned that accurate
data on the area of land involved and the costs to the industry The Departments consider that the amended wording will address
had not been provided in the pRIA. this query and provide reinforced protection to waterways near
sloping land. Concerns about practicalities and enforcement will
be addressed in accompanying new guidance for the regulations.
Further analysis of the area involved estimate that approximately
0.01 %6 of the total area of crop and grassland would be impacted
by this additional measure. The Departments would consider this
to be a low regulatory impact.

Based on (using100 m slope grid square and the most up to date DARD GIS fields layer and a dataset extracted from OSNI large scale vector maps) calculation of,
for slopes between 12 and 20 %: (the total area between 10 and 15 m from waterways other than lakes over 50 ha) plus (the total area between 20 and 30 m from
lakes greater than 50 ha). Due to limitations of the digital mapping data, waterways included are those wider than 1 m (including lakes and ponds under 50 ha).
Respondent Issue and respondents’ comments Departmental reply

Regulation 23 - Amendment of the date for complying with the stipulated conditions from harvest until “1 March” to harvest until
“15 January” and to remove the option of after harvest of certain crops of leaving the land “with a rough surface, ploughed or disced, to
encourage the infiltration of rain”.
UFU The respondent welcomed the proposed change in date to This requirement has been changed to mirror the change in the
15 January. However, they considered there was a need for the Cross-Compliance GAEC verifiable standards relating to minimum
third condition “the land is left with a rough surface, ploughed or soil cover. It was necessary to change the GAEC standard
disced to encourage the infiltration of rain” (included in the because the Commission had written to the Northern Ireland
current cross-compliance system and NAP) to remain. authorities stating that it considered the GAEC standard ‘Minimum
soil cover’ to be missing in 2011 and 2012 because the option to
leave land with a rough surface, ploughed or disced did not ensure
minimum soil cover. Failure to remedy the situation could lead to
audit finding relating to the under implementation of the standard
with potential disallowance implications. CAFRE will issue a press
release informing farmers of the revised Cross-Compliance rules
with respect to ploughing land for a spring crop this winter
Schedule 1 - Updates to a number of values in different tables, including nitrogen excretion rates for goats, changes in livestock categories
and nitrogen and phosphorus contents of pig (and possibly poultry) manures.
NIAPA, The respondent felt there were anomalies with regard to some The Departments would encourage stakeholders who have
nutrient values and methods of calculation and that these need to concerns about anomalies in nutrient values and calculation
be clarified. methods to contact officials with specific details of their concerns
so that they can be considered for future revisions.

Summary of comments on other issues raised by respondents and Departmental reply
(please see Annex C for list of non-abbreviated names of respondents)

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

Other issues raised by respondents

UAF Achievement The respondent noted that much more The Departments note this comment and acknowledge that, while there have
of Water remains to be done to comply with the Water been improvements in many waterbodies for different assessed parameters,
Framework Framework Directive and Good Ecological it remains a challenge to improve the overall status of waterbodies across
Objectives Status. Northern Ireland.

While the NAP is a key basic measure under the WFD aimed at reducing the
impact of agricultural practices on water quality, it is important to note that it
is part of an overall programme of measures aimed at meeting the WFD
objectives. These include other measures aimed at the agricultural sector
such as other legislation, codes of good practice, voluntary initiatives, agri-
environment schemes and grant aid for improved farming practices. There
is also a range of corresponding measures to tackle pressures from other
sectors impacting on the water environment.

As part of the ongoing process of implementing and meeting the objectives
of the WFD, NIEA will publish draft second-cycle River Basin Management
Plans for 2015-2021 at the end of 2014. These plans will contain information
on the current status of waterbodies in Northern Ireland and outline a
proposed updated programme of measures to improve the overall status of
water bodies. The programme of measures will again include measures
targeted at the agriculture sector and at other sectors to address a range of
impacts affecting waterbodies.
UAF Pollution The respondent stated that pollution of the NIEA investigates all water pollution complaints it receives and, in the last
environment in Northern Ireland is not three years, has investigated over 6,200 incidents with many of these
treated with the seriousness it deserves. reported via the Agency’s dedicated Water Pollution Hotline. NIEA has
responded to these incidents within the time targets set for it, taking
appropriate action to prevent further discharge and, where possible, to

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

minimise any associated environmental impact. For those incidents having a
significant environmental impact and where the pollution source is identified,
NIEA aims to take formal enforcement under the Water (Northern Ireland)
Order 1999 and/or the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations (Northern
Ireland) 2010. In respect of water pollution incidents, occurring in the period
2010 to 2012, that have been progressed to prosecution, total fines in
excess of £125,000 have been levied by the Courts. In addition, water
pollution incidents related to agriculture, where breaches of Cross
Compliance standards are confirmed, have led to reductions in Single Farm
Payments paid to the farmer by DARD.
UAF Establishment The respondent highlighted that Northern This issue was last examined in the DOE “Environmental Governance in
of an Ireland is the only area in the UK without an Northern Ireland” Discussion Document in 2011. Former Minister Attwood
independent independent environmental protection indicated that the purpose of the 2011 Discussion Document exercise was to
environment agency and feels consideration should be test the water to establish firmly and directly what the community,
agency given for this to be established, which would stakeholders and others believed was best going forward and to gauge if
also address the issue of so many different there was an appetite for structural reform leading to a truly independent
Government Departments having input for environment agency. Former Minister Attwood also stated that in moving
water quality etc. this issue forward it would be necessary to carry out a much more detailed
consideration, taking into account the views of key interests and all of the
relevant issues, including, for example, the impact on farmers, to ensure that
any final proposals for the creation of an independent environment agency
were robust, deliverable and most importantly would deliver improved and
more efficient levels of environmental protection. An important element of
any future work programme would be to complete a robust and fully costed
business case. The business case would be essential to support any final
proposals to establish an independent environment agency.
UAF, Guidance and Several respondents felt that guidance to go DARD engages extensively with the agricultural industry through a
UAS, education alongside these Regulations was vital to programme of press articles, on-line services and radio interviews and also
UFU,, educate farmers, particularly with regard to through engagement with industry organisations such as the UFU. These
NIACA, changes to the existing regulations. Press various communication channels seek to provide up to date information on
NIAPA, articles, bulletins, individual advice provision, the NAP regulations and to remind farmers of important dates e.g. the
AIC, training events and co-operation between closed periods for slurry application, the deadline for application for the
NIGTA, the Departments and farmers were also nitrates derogation and the need for managing silage effluent.

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

FWTF, considered important to improve compliance
Moy and ensure farmers are kept up to date. These messages are reinforced through the Bulletin entitled “Helping You
Park Comply”. This Bulletin is published in February and September each year
One respondent suggested DARD should and is sent to all farmers who receive the single farm payment. Each issue
utilise expertise within NIEA and has at least one article on nitrates and topics have included, responsibilities
environmental NGOs to design and deliver under cross compliance, nitrates records, update on the revised nitrates
nutrient management training and also that regulations and promotion of the nitrates derogation. In addition this bulletin
training could be targeted to pollution is also used to publicise CAFRE’s training courses which include several
hotspots. Another respondent felt that NIEA nitrates related topics.
should have an increased role in educating
and advising farmers. CAFRE promotes and delivers training on nitrates and the related topics of
nitrates derogation and nutrient management. From 2009 to 2014, over
1700 farmers have attended both nutrient management and nitrates action
One respondent believe that more programme training. 158 farmers have also attended training on the nitrates
sustainable progress would be achieved derogation, which has moved to one to one support from CAFRE’s
through education and advice than by Development Advisers over the last two years. CAFRE would welcome
enforcement. greater numbers of farmers coming forward for all these training strands.

Two respondents noted that they would like The Departments are committed to revising the guidance booklets to
to be involved in the Guidance Working accompany the 2015-2019 action programme and will be contacting
Group for the 2015-2019 action programme. interested stakeholders to seek their involvement.
UAF, Buffer Strips These respondents suggested that buffer The Departments would highlight that the mandatory fertiliser non-spreading
FWTF strips should be introduced across the buffer zones alongside waterways will remain in the new NAP as a measure
province. This will establish a boundary for to reduce the risk of nutrient enrichment of waterways.
spreading, create a natural corridor for
wildlife and help stop pollution reaching a As well as this chemical and organic manure spreading restriction alongside
watercourse. waterways, the Northern Ireland Countryside Management Scheme
(NICMS), under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme,
One respondent felt that buffer strips should provides the opportunity for participating farmers to undertake farm
be increased beyond the current proposed waterway and riparian zone management measures. These managed
two metre threshold, in line with the best riparian zones can, in addition to acting as a buffer to reduce the risk of
available evidence. This respondent also pollution, also develop into valuable wildlife habitats. The successor to this
believed there is justification to include scheme is currently under development and will also contain water
buffer strips as eligible under Single Farm protection measures.

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

Payment regulations.
Buffer strips created in 2015 onwards may be eligible for Basic and Greening
payments provided eligibility requirements are met
UFU, Buffer strips These respondents noted that farmers using The Departments note the respondents’ suggestion but are minded that
UAS a trailing shoe tanker can reduce spreading development of the next action programme is too advanced to consider it for
distances close to a waterway and suggests inclusion at this stage. However, they will undertake to consider it for the
that the same principle should also apply to 2019-2023 action programme.
the spreading of poultry litter/FYM where it is
incorporated within a few hours of spreading
with an inverted plough.
UFU Policing The respondent felt that NIEA must show When a pollution incident occurs, NIEA inspectors will normally assess the
more flexibility when policing the Nitrates severity at the site of the incident and then trace the polluting material back
Regulations on farms. There are cases to its source. If the pollution is nitrates–related, the source is likely to be a
where assumption taken by the inspectors is farm premises. Where it is suspected that the effects of the incident are
that the farmer is guilty of an offence before severe enough to consider prosecution, the inspector is required by the
any investigation has taken place is not Police and The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Codes of Practice
acceptable. A more flexible system needs to (PACE) to formally caution a suspected offender before asking questions
be put in place which would allow farmers about the matter. This is a legal requirement designed to protect the rights
more opportunity to ‘fix’ a low or medium of the suspect, and also to ensure that evidence is of an appropriate
severity incident and penalties should only standard. It does not imply that the person questioned is being judged guilty.
be applied where an incident is ongoing or
of high severity. Due to interaction between NAP and the cross-compliance regime, any more
flexible approach to certain ‘low’ severity incidents would require
engagement at a UK level with the European Commission. The issue is
currently being examined by UK administrations. ‘Medium’ severity incidents
would be beyond such an approach in both Cross Compliance and NIEA
enforcement procedures.
UFU Classification The respondent felt that the classification of The classification of penalties across all areas of Cross-Compliance is
of Penalties penalties under cross-compliance nitrates regularly reviewed to ensure that the penalties applied are in proportion to
inspections should be reconsidered. For the severity, extent and permanence of the breaches identified.
example, they found it unacceptable that For record keeping breaches identified against SMR 5 (Protection of Water
farmers breached for minor paperwork against Nitrate Pollution) the following approach is taken –

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

errors could lose significant amounts of their  Where there are minor omissions but a full assessment can be made is
single farm payment when there was classed as low severity. For negligent breaches this will lead to a 1%
negligible environmental impact. penalty.
 Where there are incomplete records which allow a partial assessment to
Also the guidance for determining be made is classed as medium severity. For negligent breaches this
‘intentional’ breaches needs to be re- will lead to a 3% penalty
examined.  Where no records are kept this is classed as high severity. For
negligent breaches this will lead to a 5% penalty.
Higher penalties are appropriate when no assessment or only a partial
assessment is possible because compliance with some aspects of the
Regulations, e.g., annual nitrates loadings, can only be properly validated if
all necessary records are available. Without complete records, it may not be
possible to confirm the degree of environmental impact.

The great majority of breaches are recorded as negligent. However, some
are recorded as intentional, and this is not done lightly by the inspecting
agency. The great majority of intentional non-compliances are recorded
after previous interaction with NIEA, involving repetition of a negligent non-
compliance. In these cases, NIEA must be satisfied that the farmer
understands what is required of him to rectify a situation, and (unless there is
evidence otherwise) deliberately chooses not to do so. Other examples may
include the farmer being interviewed under caution to determine his
understanding of his actions, e.g., where it is suspected that fraudulent
records have been offered. This approach is deemed necessary as these
cases involve either direct environmental impact, or high risk of serious
environmental impact.
UFU Use of APHIS This respondent raised concerns regarding When nitrates inspections were first carried out, both NIEA inspectors and
by NIEA the use of APHIS information in relation to farmers found that calculating the average numbers of cattle from the
animal numbers during inspections and information in a herd book was extremely difficult and sometimes almost
queried whether this was a potential breach impossible. Following an agreement between DARD and NIEA, APHIS
of the Data Protection Act. They felt the online data is shared with NIEA for Cross Compliance inspection purposes
information should only be shared with NIEA only. Use of the data has simplified the inspection process for everyone and
after a farm inspection, if they believe there it is now the accepted source of accurate information for numbers of cattle
is a breach, to verify the information on farms. Its use greatly speeds up the inspection, reducing time spent on

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

provided by the farmer. farm and the administrative burden on the farmer to present records. NIEA
is not aware of this arrangement having worked to a farmer’s detriment.

DARD will be reviewing the data shared with NIEA, as part of the Nitrates
Action Programme, to provide the assurance that Data Protection Principles
are being upheld.
UFU Environ- The respondent believed that farms that can NIEA are actively investigating ways to make more use of FQA membership
mental demonstrate a level of environmental in the cross compliance risk selection process. However, it has been noted
compliance compliance through participating in other that there is sometimes little overlap between scheme requirements and
schemes, i.e., various sectoral Farm Quality NAP, and NIEA are working with the relevant schemes to try to address this.
Assurance (FQA) Schemes or agri-
environment schemes should have a Cross compliance inspections by NIEA cover other issues (Birds, Habitats
reduced risk of being chosen for inspection. and Groundwater) apart from Nitrates, which are not directly covered in an
They also felt that farms should not be IPPC inspection. To ensure that farms are selected on the basis of relevant
selected for both IPPC and Nitrates cross- environmental risk, the selection processes must be kept separate.
compliance inspections. However, any farms selected for cross compliance inspections which are
also PPC licensed are normally given the opportunity of a joint inspection
(although many decline it). Also, any information relating to these farms is
also shared to help avoid any duplication of inspection.
UFU NIEA cross The respondent was concerned that some NIEA have been taking steps to commence inspections earlier in the year,
compliance inspections are carried out late in the year but are dependent on data from DARD to finalise farm selection. These data
inspections and hence cause delays to a farmer’s Single are not available until after Single Application Forms have been submitted
and Single Farm Payment. (by 15 May with late applications permitted until 9 June) and the information
Farm processed. Electronic submission of completed farm inspection forms to
Payment DARD has been introduced; this should help speed up processing of
(SFP) completed inspections.
UFU Single Farm The respondent felt that the SFP appeals The SFP review process is intended to provide farmers with a fair, impartial
Payment system is inappropriate and unfair to the and transparent assessment of DARD’s decision against the framework of
Appeals farmer. They stated that there was not EU and National Regulations and Scheme Rules. The aim of the procedure
enough expertise of the environmental rules is to ensure that the decision made is correct and in line with EU and
within DARD to challenge NIEA and, also, National Regulations and Scheme rules.
that the length of time taken to process

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

appeals was unacceptable. Stage One is a review by an officer within DARD who has not previously
been involved in the case. The Stage One case officer when considering the
review application will, where necessary request information from the
applicant and from other Departmental sources, including NIEA. The Stage
One case officer does not ‘challenge’ the NIEA (this is the role of the
applicant) but seeks views and information. As the Competent Authority the
views and information provided by the NIEA must be taken into account.
The case officer considers all the facts presented with respect to the review,
whether provided by NIEA or the applicant, when determining whether
DARD’s original decision is correct.

DARD acknowledges that the processing times for Review of Decisions
could be improved and, as a result, has introduced changes to the review
process. This has resulted in a significant improvement in the time taken to
finalise cases. The backlog of cases at Stage 1 has been eliminated with a
commensurate improvement in the time taken to complete cases.

While there has been a significant improvement in the timescales for
completion of Stage 1 and Stage 2 reviews, DARD is continuing to look at
the component parts of the process, especially those that are in the
Department’s control, to identify what factors contribute to delays in finalising
cases and address these issues. In addition, where possible, technology will
be introduced to speed up the process and to give the farmer as much
transparency as possible in what can sometimes be technically complicated

However, it is important to recognise that often the issues raised in reviews
can be complex and require careful consideration. In some cases there is a
need to seek legal advice and in other cases farmers are asked to provide
additional information. This adds to the overall timescales involved in
processing a case. In addition, in Stage 2 cases, applicants receive 6
weeks’ notice of the hearing and this again contributes to the length of time
required to process cases.

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

UFU Force The respondent felt that there should be Government Departments cannot make decisions for farmers, or give
Majeure more support and guidance for farmers permission to do things that are contrary to the law, and there is a great
facing Force Majeure circumstances. danger of guidance being too prescriptive for what are by definition rare and
unusual circumstances. In such circumstances, NIEA recommend that a
farmer should fully document what they did and why it was the best
environmental option. NIEA is available to give general advice on options
and points to consider.

A general section on force majeure as it relates overall to Cross-Compliance
will be included in the 2015 Cross-Compliance guidance booklets which are
currently under preparation.
UFU Health and The respondent was concerned that slurry There is evidence to indicate that total-sulphide concentrations in slurry
Safety stored for longer periods of time can result in decrease with time. The hazards from hydrogen sulphide appear to be
higher risks from a health and safety present in all slurries regardless of the length of storage period7.
There does appear to be more slurry mixing/gas related incidents over the
last number of years, however, this may be due to the lack of “headspace” in
the tank when mixing takes place (i.e. tanks are full or nearly full). There has
also been a considerable increase in the size/power of tractors and slurry
pumps used to mix slurry (much larger volume of slurry can now be mixing
using modern equipment compared to 10 - 20 years ago) – therefore much
greater quantities of gas are released during mixing.
UFU Phosphorus The respondent felt that DARD/DOE should DARD recognises the importance of maintaining good phosphorus soil
situation in commission further work to identify the status and the implications for productivity if levels of phosphorus fall below
Northern current phosphorus situation in Northern crop requirements. DARD agrees with UFU that there would be value in
Ireland soils Ireland as there is anecdotal evidence that monitoring phosphorus status of soils receiving only organic phosphorus
soil phosphorus statuses are declining at a over a prolonged time period. Research could establish whether anecdotal
faster rate than expected from when the findings of faster than expected phosphorus declines are representative of
Phosphorus Regulations were first wider trends. The DARD Directed AFBI Research Work Programme
introduced. However, the respondent felt 2015/16 is currently calling for a research proposal in this area, and AFBI

Stevens, R.J., Laughlin, R.J. and Frost, J.P. (1993). Effect of diet and storage time on the concentration of sulphide in dairy cow slurry. Bioresource Technology,
Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

that any resulting soil maps from such an scientists are liaising with counterparts in Teagasc who are also carrying out
exercise must not be used as a regulatory research in this field.
tool by the NIEA.
NIACA, Bureaucracy One respondent stated that the UK The Departments note the respondents’ comments but wish to highlight that
NIAPA, and Government promised a reduction in ‘red the amalgamation of nutrient management regulation is not being proposed
UAS administration tape’ but it would appear that for the NAP for administrative convenience. Rather, the aim is to simplify regulation for
this is increasing. One respondent farm businesses by providing streamlined regulations and guidance and so
considered that simplifying legislation and reduce the amount of measures which need to be known about and
reducing the number of regulations must not complied with. Similarly, the Departments would highlight that the
be done purely for administrative introduction of the “N-max” limit for cereals, expansion and updating of
convenience. One respondent did not wish nutrient values in the schedule and improved consistency between guidance
to see improvements in water quality and regulations will assist farmers in improving nutrient management and
undermined by increased bureaucracy. efficiency and reduce the potential for unintentional over-application of
NIACA Uptake of The respondent felt that more Each year CAFRE advisers prepare press articles to promote the nitrates
derogation encouragement and promotion should be derogation. In January 2014 three articles were produced which looked at
given for farm businesses to apply for several aspects of the derogation and how it allows intensive dairy farmers,
derogation. They stated that farmers were and other grassland farmers, to run their business and not be a threat to the
reluctant to apply was the possibility that environment. In response the number of farmers who applied for the nitrates
NIEA would check records for previous derogation increased from approximately 150 to 175. The Departments and
years. The respondent suggested that if a NIEA are actively examining further options for encouraging more farmers to
farmer is in derogation then that should be avail of the benefits of derogation.
the only year’s records checked.
NIAPA Anaerobic The respondent felt that further clarification The Departments note the respondent’s comments and intend to address
digestate on usage of anaerobic digestate is required. this issue in new guidance for the regulations.
FWTF, Synergy: These respondents felt that the inter- NIEA chair the WFD inter-departmental working group and are committed to
UAF WFD, NAP, departmental working group should ensure ongoing engagement and partnership working, at all levels, and are willing to
Cross greater synergy between Departments and engage with all Departments, stakeholders and individuals who can assist in
Compliance their responsibilities in order to deliver an helping to meet the objectives of WFD. Delivery of WFD is coordinated by
and rural effective sustainable water policy. One an Interdepartmental Board and a WFD Implementation Working Group
development respondent believed that it is imperative that which include representatives from DOE, DARD, DCCAL and DRD. In
funding the concerns over water quality are addition two Freshwater Summits have been held in 2014 enabling

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

addressed now through the design of the stakeholders and departmental representatives to discuss the wider issues
new NAP regulations, new Cross- affecting the water environment. The development of Second Cycle River
compliance requirements for Northern Basin Management plans by 2015, the NAP review, and ongoing review of
Ireland and the provision of adequate rural Agri-environment schemes enables proposed actions and measures to be
development funding under Pillar 2 of the aligned and complementary.
CAP. They stated that it is imperative such
funds are targeted to ensure funding is The Departments wish to highlight, however, that the European Commission
directed to where the need is greatest. has set out the regulatory requirements that must be included under Cross-
Compliance. The Northern Ireland Cross-Compliance requirements already
One respondent also felt that future agri- include all of these requirements. There is, therefore, no scope for the
environment and land management inclusion of additional Cross-Compliance requirements in the area of water
programme should have WFD measures quality
included, which should be funded
appropriately, to target the right places and A new Northern Ireland agri-environment scheme (the Environmental
provide land managers with regular Farming Scheme (EFS)) and Land Management Programme (LMP) are
advisory/training support. being developed under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme
for 2014-2020. The EFS will include a range of water protection measures
to help meet the objectives of a number of EU Directives, including WFD.

The LMP will include support for nutrient management planning and will
therefore help to reduce nutrient losses to water. Training will be a key
element of both the EFS and LMP.
FWTF Climate This respondent felt that the increasing risk The Departments note the respondent’s comments but would highlight that
change posed by climate change, with potential interaction between the NAP and climate change was examined during the
water quality implications, has been review process for 2011-2014 NAP and is discussed in the review report
underplayed within the document. which is available on-line at:

As part of the commitments stemming from the Northern Ireland Climate
Change Adaptation Programme (DOE, 2014), DOE and DARD undertook to
consider appropriate agricultural adaptation measures for NAP in this review.
Ongoing research by AFBI on identification and publication of recommended
lists of arable crops which take account of local changing conditions, soils
and tolerance of extreme conditions, has identified that yields of cereal crops

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

in Northern Ireland have increased in recent years to the point at which
current nitrogen fertiliser recommendations should be reviewed, as proposed
in the consultation document.

In terms of mitigation measures, the proposals to extend the land application
controls of the NAP Regulations to all types of chemical fertiliser and
introduce a closed period for phosphorus will help mitigate against potential
nutrient loss and run-off to water-ways during projected wetter winters and
heavy rainfall events at other times.

The Departments are mindful of the need for ongoing responsiveness on this
issue and are committed to again examining potential interactions between
NAP and climate change during the review of the next action programme.
As discussed earlier in this document, the potential benefits of roofing
outdoor slurry storage will be reviewed again at that stage.
FWTF Land This respondent believed that improved land The Departments recognise the benefits of a catchment based-approach to
Management management required a careful combination address water issues. The Water Catchment Partnership is one such
and of incentives and regulation. They stated example of working proactively together to promote and raise awareness of
catchment that many designated wetlands and water best practice when using pesticides in the garden or on the farm. This is a
sensitive bodies were being damaged by ongoing working partnership with representatives from UFU, NIW, NIEA and CAFRE
farming diffuse pollution and recommended a similar which aims to address the problem of pesticides in the water environment,
approach to the Catchment Sensitive particularly in drinking water catchments, with an initial focus on the Derg
Farming programme in other parts of the catchment.
FWTF Wetland This respondent believed that use of NIEA are supportive of the use of properly constructed wetland treatment
treatment wetland treatment systems and integrated systems as they represent a sustainable, comparatively low cost effluent
systems and constructed wetlands could help improve treatment solution for a range of effluent types, from lightly contaminated
integrated local water quality and biodiversity and help farmyard run-off to domestic sewage effluent. Such treatment systems must
constructed deliver associated government targets. be properly designed and constructed, taking into account the nature and
wetlands They could also have educational, volume of effluent to be treated. NIEA and the Scottish Environmental
recreational and amenity uses. Protection Agency (SEPA) have produced a design manual for constructed
farm wetlands- this is available at the following link:

Respondent Issue Respondents’ comments Departmental reply

Discharges from this type of system are regulated by consent under the
Water (Northern Ireland) Order 1999.

A constructed wetland system is in operation at CAFRE Greenmount
Campus treats farm effluent from the college’s dairy farm. Research
conducted in partnership with AFBI, QUB and NIEA has shown that the
wetland has been effective in treating dirty water from the Dairy Unit. A
detailed scientific report has been published and is available at The wetland is a
demonstration and educational facility to promote the use of constructed
wetlands for farm effluent bioremediation.
GSNI Groundwater The respondent noted the overall reduction The Departments note the respondent’s comments and intend to address
and in nitrate concentrations monitored at the issue of risks of nitrate leaching to ground water in new guidance for the
hydrogeology groundwater monitoring points. However, regulations. They would also highlight that nitrate levels in groundwater in
they also noted that groundwater was still Northern Ireland are generally low. For the last reported monitoring period
performing worse than surface water. They (2008-2011) 100% of groundwater monitoring sites had an annual average
considered that there were no specific of less than 40 m NO3 l-1 and 95 % of sites were less than 25 mg NO3 l-1.
measures in the NAP to prevent leaching to Land management measures within NAP, include the requirement to leave
groundwater and stated that measures arable stubble in place over winter, or sow a crop to take up nitrogen, are
required for groundwater protection are the designed to reduce potential nitrogen leaching to groundwater. The
reciprocal of these for surface waters. The Departments would encourage stakeholders who have proposals for
respondent suggested guidance would be improved measures to protect water quality to contact them, so that the
required to inform farmers about risks of proposals can be considered for future NAP revisions
nitrate leaching to groundwater.


List of respondents

Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC)

Disability Action

Equestrian Council for Northern Ireland

Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI)

Moy Park

Northern Ireland Agricultural Consultants Association (NIACA)

Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association (NIAPA)

Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA)

Northern Ireland Freshwater Taskforce (FWTF)

Ulster Angling Federation (UAF)

Ulster Arable Society (UAS)

Ulster Farmers Union (UFU)



AFBI – Agri-Food and Biosciences PACE – Police and Criminal Evidence Act
Institute 1984 Codes of Practice
APHIS – Animal and Public Health ROI – Republic of Ireland
Information System SACs – Special Areas of Conservation
ASSIs – Areas of Special Scientific SEPA – Scottish Environmental
Interest Protection Agency
CAFRE – College of Agriculture, Food SFP – Single Farm Payment
and Rural Enterprise
SMR – Statutory Management
CAP – Common Agricultural Policy Requirement
DARD – Department of Agriculture and SSAFO - Silage, Slurry and Agricultural
Rural Development Fuel Oil
DCAL – Department for Culture, Arts and SUPL – Sustainable Utilisation of Poultry
Leisure Litter
DEFRA – Department of Environment, UK – United Kingdom
Food and Rural Affairs
UNECE – United Nations Economic
DOE – Department of the Environment Commission for Europe
EU – European Union WFD – Water Framework Directive
FQA – Farm Quality Assurance
FYM – Farmyard Manure
GAEC – Good Agricultural and
Environmental Condition
GfG – Going for Growth
IPPC – Integrated Pollution Prevention
MLA – Member of Local Assembly
MP – Member of Parliament
NAP – Nitrates Action Programme
NECD – National Emissions Ceiling
NGOs – Non-Government Organisations
NI – Northern Ireland
NICMS – Northern Ireland Countryside
Management Scheme
NIEA – Northern Ireland Environment
NVZs – Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
OSRs – Oil Storage Regulations