When tackled on the subject of the draft Nitrates Action Programme, Minister McConalogue said there was flexibility on the proposed measures, particularly around slurry spreading dates in the autumn.

The minister said: “Every year is different, for example if you look at this year the growth rates have been tremendous and fertiliser and organic manure is getting a response,” he said.

“I think we need to find a mechanism that is flexible and that works and ensures the best use of the nutrients that are there,” McConalogue added.

In relation to rogue operators, he said there will have to be an improved level of compliance with regards to existing rules around slurry spreading dates.

When asked about grant aid for additional investments that need to be made in order for farmers to become compliant with new rules, the minister said they will try to ensure there is support available for farmers who need to make adjustments.

However, he acknowledged, there are difficulties with securing TAMS funding if a farmer is not compliant with the existing rules.