THERE are concerns over the practical and financial impact DAERA’s new draft ammonia strategy will have on Fermanagh farmers.
Last week the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) launched a consultation on the long-awaited strategy, which is aimed at reducing ammonia emissions, which have an adverse affect on the environment and public health.
Director of natural environment policy at DAERA, Dave Foster, said the draft strategy had been developed under former Minister Edwin Poots, and recognised the contribution of agriculture to the local economy.
“However, those farming practices contribute to ammonia emissions, which in turn have adverse effects on nature and public health,” said Mr Foster.
“The draft strategy also recognises that rigorous action on ammonia is needed in the coming years and that it is important that we find the right approach that helps our local farm businesses and rural communities thrive and be sustainable while at the same time protecting our environment.”
The North has almost 250 sensitive sites that are supposed to be protected from the impacts of ammonia and nitrogen, but many of which have been found to be experiencing concentrations of the chemicals, which may damage plants.
“We know that we need to take action in the coming years to reduce the levels of ammonia if we are to achieve the improved outcomes we all want to see when it comes to nature and to public health, while also supporting local farming,” said Mr Foster.
“Finding the right pathway to improvement will be crucial and we are keen to have as many views as possible from as wide a cross-section of the population on the measures proposed in the strategy.”
President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), Florencecourt man David Brown, said the UFU had been waiting on the draft strategy for some time, stating the issue had been “a major stumbling block in the planning process for many farm developments.”
While he welcomed the publication of the draft strategy, he said concerns remained.
“Northern Ireland farmers fully recognise the need to reduce ammonia emissions on farm,” said Mr Brown.
“It remains a huge challenge for the industry, but our members care about the environment and are willing to do their bit to reduce emissions.
This is evident by the significant uptake of Low Emission Slurry Spreading Equipment (LESSE) in recent years which is part of the solution to reducing ammonia emissions.
“The release of the draft ammonia strategy is a step in the right direction however, we have deep concerns about some of the proposed measures within the strategy. This includes the practical and financial impacts on NI farms.
“We will now be taking the time to thoroughly scrutinise this strategy in depth within our committee structures, and once we have done so we’ll be able to comment further on the draft.”
The consultation is opened until Friday, March 3rd and can be accessed at www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations
Responses to the consultation will be used to form the final strategy, with proposed targets for 2030, that DAERA said will “secure the restoration of biodiversity, ecosystems, and the services they provide, while also facilitating the sustainable development of a prosperous agri-food industry.”
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