Midlands-Northwest MEP Colm Markey will seek a derogation for grass-based livestock farms from proposed changes to the European Commission’s Industrial Emissions Directive.

The draft proposals were published last month and would mean that farms with more than 150 cows would need an environmental permit to continue operating, if adopted.

Most Irish pig and poultry units currently require such permits, with the proposed licensing system to cost affected farmers €2,400 per year.

Grass-based v confined

As the agricultural element of the rule changes primarily aim to address ammonia emissions originating from animal housing facilities, farms where animals graze for most of the year should be granted a derogation from the licensing system, which would be applicable to larger-sized confined livestock farms, the MEP told the Irish farmers Journal.

“One of the things that is in it and we need to look at closely is the differentiation made for grass-based systems,” said Markey.

“There’s no change to the limits in that but, potentially, I think we should be looking at a scenario where when animals are only housed for a short number of months on a grass-based system that we should be looking at some level of a derogation in those situations.

“I think that’s something that I will definitely be looking to push forward and see can we get any traction on that because the Industrial Emissions Directive is very much focused around the facility, if you like, as opposed to the [whole] farm.

“So, if the housing facilities are used for only a couple of months of the year, that surely is different to, let’s say, animals that are housed 12 months of the year or even more than six months of the year, for instance,” he said.