Agriculture has been identified as a source of water pollution in NI. The water quality options in agri-environment schemes are helping to protect waterways, which in turn bring water quality benefits that will help NI meet the requirements under the Water Framework Directive and the Nitrates Directive.

Agri-environment schemes and water quality

Farmers in these schemes receive funding in return for preparing and implementing a nutrient and waste management plan, and also have an option to manage the areas close by waterways known as riparian zones.

These fenced off riparian zones act as a buffer reducing fertilisers and pesticides. They also reduce soil erosion and provide valuable habitat for aquatic insects.

Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) and Phosphorus Regulations

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

On 1 January 2015, changes to the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP and Phosphorus regulations were made for the period 2015-2018.  The new Regulations replace the NAP and Phosphorus Regulations 2011-2014.  The NAP Regulations and the Phosphorus Regulations apply to all agriculture land in Northern Ireland.

Compliance with the Nitrates Action Programme is one of the Cross Compliance Statutory Manangement Requirements.  Therefore, farmers claiming Basic Payment Scheme and other direct payments are required to comply with the NAP Regulations.  Measures relating to the Phosphorus Regulations are not Cross Compliance Verifiable Standards.  However, adherence to both sets of Regulations is required by law.

Earlier Nitrates Action Programmes (NAP) and Phosphorus Regulations

The Code of Good Agricultural Practice (COGAP)

This DARD code is out of print and is currently being updated; however, the August 2008 version is still available for the purpose of a Farm Quality Assurance Inspection. Please note that there have been changes to some legislation included in the Code since it was produced in 2008.

COGAP is for farmers, growers, contractors and others involved in agricultural activities. It is about how you can help to avoid polluting water, air and soil. It sets out good management practices you can use on farms.

When claiming Single Farm Payment (SFP) and other direct payments, you must meet what are called Cross-Compliance conditions. These consist of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs) and Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs). Following this code will help you meet these conditions. We must protect the quality of our water, air and soil. Our well-being and that of our countryside depends on them.

Review of alternative technologies to fluidised bed combustion for poultry litter utilisation

The review was undertaken by DARD and the AgriFood and Biosciences Institure (AFBI).  The review examined the potential of a range of alternative technologies and options to fluidised bed combustion as a means of utilising surplus poultry litter in Northern Ireland.  This review was published in April 2012.