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The deadline for submission of manure export records to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has been extended until 1st March 2021.

In addition, the deadline for applying for a Nutrients Action Programme (NAP) derogation, and the submission of 2020 fertilisation accounts for derogated farms, has been extended to the 31st March 2021, DAERA Minister Gordon Lyons has confirmed. However for farms intending to apply for and operate under the derogation, a fertilisation plan must still be prepared on the holding by 1st March and kept updated during the year.

The extensions come as a response to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and is part of the wider effort to adhere to guidance such as social distancing and self-isolating in order to reduce the spread of the virus. It also takes pressure off farmers and their agents who along with the agri-food sector are working extremely hard to ensure the food supply chain keeps moving.

Minister Lyons said: “Unfortunately, given the current status of the pandemic we once again need to consider the impact this is having on the ability of farmers to meet with agents and Departmental advisors. Farmers may need to discuss key business issues decisions such as applying for a derogation, and the preparation of fertilisation accounts and submission of manure export records. It is essential that this is done in accordance with Public Health Guidance and Covid-19 restrictions.

“I am therefore extending the deadline for submission of manure exports records to 1st March 2021 to ease some of the pressure on farmers and their agents.

“Minister Edwin Poots extended the deadline for applying for a NAP derogation and submitting accounts last year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Again this year I am extending the deadline for doing so to 31st March, to enable farmers and their agents additional time to correspond and prepare their submissions in a safe manner. I would encourage all farmers to check their farm nitrogen loading figures which can be done via the Department’s online services and apply for a derogation if necessary. Farmers who intend to apply for a derogation, must still prepare a fertilisation plan for their holding by 1st March and keep it updated during the year.

“I trust that these pragmatic extensions will be welcomed and continues to demonstrate that we are willing to listen to our stakeholders and work collectively with them during this challenging time.”