By Emily Hughes
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have issued a call for evidence on its Future Operational Protocol in Northern Ireland. This assesses the impact of ammonia levels from on-going and planned farm developments. The call has been described as “long overdue” by the Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) president, David Brown, who said the plans were “concerning for agriculture”
The Future Operational Protocol will be used by DAERA to advise planning agencies about the implications of future projects for air pollution and protected habitats.
In June, the Northern Ireland Environmental Agency (NIEA) was heavily criticised by farmers, after temporarily pausing all planning applications on farms, due to concerns about ammonia.
The UK has legal obligations to reduce ammonia emissions. By 2030, a 16% reduction must be achieved, compared with 2005 levels. Currently, Northern Ireland is responsible for 12% of the total emissions, despite only having 3% of UK population, and 6% of land area. This contribution has been attributed to agriculture. 97% of NI ammonia emissions come from agriculture, with the poultry industry contributing to 14% of this.
“Ammonia is a very complex issue and our farmers are aware of this,” said Brown. He added ammonia assessments will have “implications for all sectors and farms of all sizes that wish to develop. It is essential that farmers are “allowed to develop and modernise so they can reduce emissions.”
There are ongoing concerns that the Future Operational Protocol will contribute to the decline of UK egg production, if producers are unable to build new sheds. The UFU have confirmed it is submitting a response.
The call for evidence will last eight weeks, closing on 15 September 2023.