Fertiliser spreading extensions welcomed

LAST week’s announcement of extensions to the slurry and chemical fertiliser spreading periods has been welcomed by local representatives. On September 12, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan announced extensions to the periods for the application of certain fertilisers in response to the challenges farmers are facing as a result of the very difficult weather conditions this summer.

LAST week’s announcement of extensions to the slurry and chemical fertiliser spreading periods has been welcomed by local representatives. On September 12, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan announced extensions to the periods for the application of certain fertilisers in response to the challenges farmers are facing as a result of the very difficult weather conditions this summer.

Farmers will now be able to apply chemical fertilisers to 30 September 2012. The Minister is also granting an extension to the period for spreading organic manures produced on farms to 31 October 2012, an extension of just over two weeks. Fine Gael Deputy for Sligo/North Leitrim, Tony McLoughlin has welcomed the extensions stating that he was “conscious of the recent serious disruption to normal farming activity due to very poor weather conditions during the summer”.

“The situation can be relieved by allowing the application of chemical fertiliser to continue for a further short period to boost grass growth and address a potentially very difficult fodder shortage later in the year,” he said but stressed that, in the interest of minimising the risk to the aquatic environment and maximising the return on application, farmers should continue to apply the chemical fertiliser as early as possible.

The Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, has stressed that the move represents an extension of time only. “All land spreading activity is conditional on weather and ground conditions being suitable as set out in the Nitrates Regulations. Livestock manures or any fertilisers may not be applied to land that is waterlogged, flooded or likely to flood, frozen or if heavy rain is forecast within 48 hours. Buffer zones are specified for different kinds of water bodies and fertilisers may not be applied within those buffer zones,” he said.

Fine Gael Seanad Spokesperson for Agriculture, Michael Comiskey, has also welcomed the extension noting that it was a welcome decision. “Farmers are now provided with an opportunity to better manage the spreading of fertilisers so as to boost grass growth, relieve the potential for a fodder shortage and minimise the cost of feed for the winter months,” he said.

However, the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) President, Gabriel Gilmartin, said he is “hugely disappointed” that the deadline for the spreading of slurry has not been abolished altogether, rather than simply extended.

“As ICSA has pointed out repeatedly, the abnormal level of rainfall seen in most parts of Ireland over the past few months has made farming exceptionally difficult this year. The extension of the deadline for spreading fertiliser will probably be sufficient and I welcome that; however I am hugely disappointed that the Government did not seen fit to take the bull by the horns and fight for the abolition of “calendar farming,” which, in present circumstances, would mean going against best farming practice, ie forcing farmers to spread slurry on land that is not fit in order to comply with bureaucracy,” he told the Leitrim Observer.

“The continuing pattern of deadlines being extended as a direct result of the weather should have indicated to the legislators by now that they simply cannot ignore the fact that farming decisions must be guided by prevailing conditions, not dates on a calendar. In fact, I would like to invite the Ministers for Agriculture and Environment to come out and see the state of Irish land for themselves. Perhaps then they would realise the seriousness of the situation many farmers find themselves in and take action to get rid of the ridiculous notion of ‘calendar farming’.”