The Nitrates Directive (91/676/EEC) aims to improve water quality by protecting water against pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources. In particular, it is about promoting better management of animal manures, chemical nitrogen fertilisers and other nitrogen-containing materials spread onto land.

Nutrient Action Programme (NAP) 2019-2022

On 11 April 2019 the new Nutrient Action Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2019 (NAP) were made for the period 2019-2022.  The new Regulations replace the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2014 as amended and the Phosphorus (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 2014.  The NAP Regulations apply to all agricultural land in Northern Ireland.

Compliance with the Nutrient Action Programme is one of the Cross Compliance Statutory Management Requirements.  Therefore, farmers claiming Basic Payment Scheme and other direct payments are required to comply with the NAP Regulations.  The measures relating to the Phosphorus Regulations are now included in the new NAP.  This means that the Cross Compliance Verifiable Standards will now also apply to the land application of chemical phosphorus.

Records relating to the export of organic manure must be submitted annually to NIEA by 31 January of the following year.

NIEA has introduced a new system for the on-line submission of records for manure export forms from January 2018. This system makes it easier and quicker for farmers, or their agents, to submit records while at the same time reducing the risk of errors and hence potential penalties being applied to the Basic Payments.

This on-line submission of manure export records for non-derogated farms sits alongside the CAFRE Nutrient Calculators which farmers are already familiar with and use to calculate their nitrogen loading and storage capacity.

Please be aware that failure to keep these records and submit them to NIEA by 31 January of the following year may have implications for any payments under  existing area based payment schemes.

Poultry litter and anaerobic digestate fibre storage

Farmers planning to store poultry litter or anaerobic digestate fibre in fields should notify the NIEA’s Agricultural Regulation Team prior to placing in the field. Poultry litter and anaerobic digestate fibre may only be stored in field heaps for a maximum of 120 days in the field where it is to be applied and must be covered with an impermeable membrane within 24 hours of placement in the field.

Nitrates directive derogation

Since 2007 the European Commission (the Commission) has granted a derogation from the Nitrates Directive for Northern Ireland from a land application limit of 170 kg nitrogen per hectare per year from grazing livestock manures up to 250 kg nitrogen per hectare per year for intensive grassland farms which meet certain criteria.  The Commission renewed the derogation for the duration of the Nutrient Action Programme (NAP) for 2019 - 2022, this was approved in May 2019.

Subject to individual farms meeting certain key measures, farmers may farm above the 170 kg Nitrogen/hectare/year limit to a limit of 250 kg Nitrogen/hectare/year for grazing livestock manure. The precise terms and conditions of the derogation are set out in the EC Decision 2019/1325/EU

At least 80 percent or more of the agricultural area of a farmer’s holding must be grassland.  Farmers cannot apply more than 250 kg Nitrogen/hectare per year from grazing livestock manure to land. This includes application by the animal itself.

Manure from pigs and poultry is not eligible for the higher derogation limit and therefore must not exceed the 170 kg Nitrogen/hectare/year limit.

Application guidance and form

The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has introduced a new online application process for farmers wishing to apply for a nitrates derogation from 2018 onwards and is taking this opportunity to encourage more applications. The application process has been simplified and it has been designed to rule out errors which will reduce the number of applications refused.

Under the new process applications should be made online from 1st January in any year using the online Nitrates Derogation application service.

The deadline for applications in 2020 is 1st March at 23:59.

Farmers considering the Nitrates Derogation should seek further advice from their adviser, farming organisation or agricultural consultant to help determine whether they are eligible to apply for a derogation.

Fertilisation plan

The Nitrates Directive Derogation Fertilisation plan must be kept on farm. It is not submitted to NIEA but must be prepared and made available for inspection by 1 March on farm each calendar year.

Fertilisation account

NIEA has introduced a new system for the on-line submission of fertilisation accounts from January 2018. The new system will make it easier and quicker for farmers, or their agents, to submit records while at the same time reducing the risk of errors and hence potential penalties being applied to the Basic Payments

For those farms operating under an approved derogation, the annual fertilisation account will be submitted on-line at the following link:

Farmers must act now to be able to complete their account on-line. They must provide NIEA with an e-mail address and NIEA will then e-mail you with a password.

Under the new process farmers or their advisers should prepare their fertilisation accounts and manure export records from derogated farms and submit these on-line.

The Nitrates Derogation Fertilisation Account must be received by NIEA by 23:59 on the 1st March for the previous calendar year.

P Balance

You can access the P Balance Calculator through the DAERA online services.  Using the P Balance Calculator, you can print the 'Detailed Balance Summary'.  This can be submitted with the rest of your Fertilisation Account and you do not have to complete the P Balance section of the Fertilisation Account.

Derogation reports

In accordance with the conditions of the Derogation Decision, Northern Ireland reports annually to the Commission on the uptake of derogation by farm businesses, evaluation of the implementation at farm level and the status of water quality.

Article 10 report

In accordance with Article 10 of the Directive, Member States must report every four years to the Commission on the status of water quality and the impact of action programmes on water quality and agricultural practices. The UK report for 2012 to 2015 was completed in 2016 and the Northern Ireland section of it can be downloaded below. The Department also produced a short summary of the report.

More information

If you have any further queries in relation to these regulations please do not hesitate to contact the Agricultural Regulations Team.

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