The Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) has urged the government to extend the slurry spreading period to accommodate other on-farm tasks. The FCI has highlighted the need for an extension due to early livestock housing and wet weather conditions, which have resulted in excess slurry production. In letters addressed to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, and Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien, the FCI called for a “national contingency plan” that would allow slurry spreading beyond the current cut-off date of October 1. The FCI emphasized that any slurry spreading during the extension would be carried out using low-emission slurry spreading (LESS) equipment.
According to the FCI, their members anticipate harvesting grass silage crops until early October, as the first cut silage has already been fed to cattle. This extended harvest period would prevent farmers and contractors from spreading animal slurry on fields for the next six to seven weeks. The situation is further complicated by delays in the cereal harvest and straw baling, as livestock farmers operating under the nitrates derogation are unable to export slurry to tillage farmers. The FCI stated that the recent wet weather and the current weather forecasts from Met Éireann indicate that the harvesting of grass silage, cereal crops, and maize silage will be slow and challenging.
The FCI highlighted that under EU rules, both Minister McConalogue and Minister O’Brien have the authority to extend the slurry spreading period. The association called on the ministers to consult with each other and confirm an extension until October 15. The FCI emphasized the urgency of the situation and urged the ministers to make a decision promptly to allow farmers to plan their grass harvesting and slurry spreading activities effectively. Failure to take immediate action would result in FCI members being unable to complete the necessary slurry spreading on individual farms before the October 1 deadline. The FCI specifically requested Minister McConalogue to inform Minister O’Brien about the urgency of the grass and cereals harvest situation and the need for an extension until October 15 in 2023. The contractors group stressed the importance of announcing a contingency plan with specific criteria to enable farmers and agricultural contractors to manage their workloads during this challenging period.