Ireland also needs to have fewer cows

EU Environment Commissioner Viginius Sinkevicius has once again publicly confirmed during a working visit to Dublin that Ireland will lose the manure derogation from next year. This will amount to a major reduction in the Irish dairy herd.

The European Commission had given the Irish the opportunity to restore the quality of groundwater and ditches in rural areas in recent years, but Ireland was unable to reverse the deterioration of water quality.

The adjustment will therefore take effect in a few months. Irish Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue, like his German and Dutch counterparts, has tried in vain to achieve a 'transition year' with Brussels.

Previously, other EU countries such as Germany and the Netherlands also lost their manure derogation. The Irish dairy industry has tried to obtain new exemptions in recent months, but Brussels has made it clear this will not happen. 

The EU criteria could lead to the culling of tens of thousands of cows, according to dairy industry sources. Sinkevicius emphasized during discussions with Irish Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue and agricultural unions that the size of their herds can also be reduced by not replacing old, deceased cows in phases.

The expected reduction in livestock numbers will not only impact Irish milk production, but also farmers' incomes. The Irish government will now be faced with the challenge of dealing with the loss of the manure derogation while finding sustainable solutions to environmental problems.