May 2, 2024
Minister must provide clarity and communication on phosphorus-related penalties – Claire Kerrane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Agriculture, Claire Kerrane TD, has called on Minister McConalogue to provide clarity and greater communication around potential phosphorus-related penalties facing farmers.

The amended Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) for the Protection of Waters Regulations sets limits regarding the application of certain nutrients, including phosphorus, to agricultural soils. The new rules mean those who occupy holdings with a grassland stocking rate above 130kg nitrogen (N)/ ha, will be required to take soil tests.

However, it has been noted by farmers and representative organisations that many farmers may be unaware of fertiliser they use containing phosphorus and the impact that sanctions may have on their payments.

Speaking today, Teachta Kerrane said:

“I have been contacted by farmers and representative farm organisations who are concerned about the possible penalties as a result of spreading fertiliser containing phosphorus.

“It has been flagged that penalties could have a serious impact on direct farm payments, such as the Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) and Agri-Climate Rural Environment Scheme (ACRES). 

“Some have also pointed out that farmers may unknowingly spread fertiliser with phosphorus and could be penalised as a result of this, where they have not had soil tested and it is required. 

“Many farmers rely on direct farm payments and the last thing they need is to have those payments cut – particularly when they are unaware of the impact that spreading fertiliser with phosphorus might have.

“The Agricultural Consultants Association (ACA) have estimated that ACRES penalties alone could reach €5,000 for larger farmers, which is eye-watering.

“I queried the Minister on the application of penalties last week, and his reply was vague but confirmed that farmers may be ‘sanctioned’ should phosphorus be applied where there is not a valid soil sample or where they exceed set allowances.

“I have since requested that he provide clarity on whether farmers who are unaware of phosphorus content of fertilisers when applying to land will face penalties. I also asked that he outline what communications he has issued to farmers on this matter to date.

“Given the potential severity of penalties on key farm payments, every effort should be being made to ensure that farmers are informed and aware of what the rules might mean for them.

“The Minister must provide clarity and communication around potential phosphorus-related penalties without delay.”

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