More than 300 farmers are today staging a protest outside the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party think-in in County Tipperary over proposed changes to a nitrates derogation and plans to hold further protests at this week’s Fine Gael meeting in Limerick and at the National Ploughing Championships.

Members of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) have gathered at the Horse and Jockey Hotel, outside Thurles, to call on Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue to oppose an EU Commission decision to introduce a tightening of rules around the spreading of manure from January.

IFA Members Eugene Lawler from Kildare, Francie Gorman from Laois and Richard O’Brien from Westmeath pictured outside the Fianna Fáil think-in in County Tipperary this morning.

Laois farmer and IFA Presidential candidate Francie Gorman said the Minister and his Department were forcing farmers to the brink with the new rules, which he claims would force farmers to reduce their herd and acquire land to abide by the proposed increased limits.

“Farmers will not accept anything less that the nitrates decision being reversed and a total review of banding. Both of these moves combined will have a devastating impact on the smaller family farm, especially fresh milk producers,” commented Mr. Gorman.

Baden Powell (Chair of North Tipperary IFA) and Pat O’Keeffe (Chair of North Cork IFA) pictured in Tipperary today with Francie Gorman (Chair of the IFA’s South Leinster branch and IFA Presidential Candidate).

He continued, “As I informed the Minister at yesterday’s International Sheepdog Trials in Blessington, County Wicklow, the IFA has put forward a credible solution that will help Ireland meet its targets under the nitrates directive and avoid the inevitable loss of jobs and income that the new rules will bring about if introduced in their current form. The situation is being exacerbated by the fact that an early decision on the CAP strategic plan has led to payments not being made on time.”

Mr. Gorman said IFA members will step up their protests unless the Government changes its approach.

“We will bring our protest with even greater numbers to the Fine Gael think-in on Friday in Limerick, and we will continue our opposition to the proposed rules at the National Ploughing Championships and at Department of Agriculture offices across the country until such time as the Minister starts fighting for our sector and the 170,000 people that it employs,” he concluded.