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Ferris criticises lack of consultation on Nitrates Directive

24 June, 2004

Speaking in a Private Members debate on the Nitrates Directive, the Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Agriculture, Martin Ferris TD, criticised the lack of consultation with farmers on its implementation. Deputy Ferris also claimed that the problems surrounding the Directive were yet another example of the manner in which EU regulations are approved with minimal input from the Irish Government.

In part of his speech, Deputy Ferris said: "One of the main issues which this debate highlights once again is the lack of real input from this state into decisions made at EU level. Once again we have a situation where people in this state are expected to comply with a regulation made without any consultation with local stakeholders, and without any specific research into local conditions.

"The fault in the case of the Nitrates Directive rests with successive Irish Governments since 1991. There are numerous other examples of a similar attitude that has led to Irish farmers being faced with fait accompli and only discovering after the event the numerous problems that they are presented with, and which might have been addressed had Irish officials paid closer attention to what was going on.

"Minister Cullen stated last night that any member state, including Ireland, will have to present detailed scientific arguments in support of a claim for derogations above the 170kg limit. Why has it taken until now to do so, and is it not the case that the ability to present that type of argument has been damaged by the cutbacks in agricultural research over the past number of years.

"As Deputy Upton pointed out last night, Teagasc has indicated that the preparation of the case that is required is still not complete. In response, the Minister stated that Teagasc has accepted an invitation to appear before the Environment Committee to discuss the Directive. That is all very well and good, but surely the fact that this is only taking place now highlights the lack of urgency with which the issue has been treated.

"What the controversy over this issue has proven is the clear need for local research into the manner in which the Directive is applied based on local conditions. As other Deputies have pointed out, there is no agreement on a number of issues including the relationship between current nitrates use and water pollution levels and the manner in which the restrictions on spreading will be applied in different parts of the country.

"Unfortunately the ability to do conduct such research has been hampered by the cut backs in Teagasc. To give just one example, it is clear that the closure of Ballinamore will mean the loss of valuable research into soil conditions in the North West. Such facilities are vital to the provision of up to date knowledge regarding farm production systems, and in the case of Ballinamore could make a contribution to the future survival of dairying in that part of the country."ENDS

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