The Minister for Agriculture has been accused of ‘failing to deliver for farmers’, after the Government failed to obtain an exemption from an EU derogation on nitrate levels.
Cattle emit nitrous oxide; it is a greenhouse gas that contributes towards climate change.
Currently, Irish farmers are allowed to produce 250 kg of organic nitrogen per hectare of land; when the derogation expires in 2026, that will be reduced to 220kg.
The European Commission hopes the reduction will improve water quality in Ireland - but the IFA believes it will force farmers to reduce their herds.
On Thursday afternoon, farmers gathered outside the Department of Agriculture to protest the decision.
“I personally feel the Minister [Charlie McConalogue] has failed to deliver for farmers,” farmer Jim Mulhall told The Hard Shoulder.
“His performance, in the past few months, has been poor at best.”
Mr Mulhall feels the changes will inevitably mean he will have to cull cattle and many farmers will be put under “serious pressure”.
One potential solution would be for farmers to spread their herd out across a wider area of land - thus reducing the amount of nitrogen emitted per hectare.
However, Mr Mulhall believes such a plan is highly flawed.
“They’re not creating any more land,” he said.
“There’s talks about the housing market, you can build more houses. You can’t build more land,” he said.
“If I have to rent more land to stay at my existing level, it means whoever I rent the ground from, I will displace somebody else.”
Unless the derogation is extended, Mr Mulhall is worried about the impact it will have on his family finances.
“I have financial commitments to make, the same as everyone else,” he said.
“I have a mortgage to pay and no other sector of society would tolerate a cut to their income and that’s why we’re here.”
The Department of Agriculture has been contacted for comment.
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Main image: Split of the Minister and cows.