The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has launched a consultation on their draft Ammonia Strategy - the first of its kind for Northern Ireland - and is keen for anyone with an interest to participate and provide their views.
DAERA recognises that ammonia emissions have adverse effects on nature and public health and need to be reduced significantly in the years ahead.
Dave Foster, DAERA's Director of Natural Environment Policy said: "The draft strategy, which was developed under the leadership of the Department's former Minister Edwin Poots, recognises that agriculture makes a significant contribution to the Northern Ireland economy. However, those farming practices contribute to ammonia emissions, which in turn have adverse effects on nature and public health.
"The draft strategy also recognises that rigorous action on ammonia is needed in the coming years and that it is important that we find the right approach that helps our local farm businesses and rural communities thrive and be sustainable while at the same time protecting our environment."
Northern Ireland has almost 250 sites designated for protection which are sensitive to the impacts of ammonia and nitrogen. DAERA has legal obligations to ensure these sites are protected. The vast majority of designated sites are currently experiencing ammonia concentrations and nitrogen deposition above the critical levels and loads at which damage to plants may occur.
Dave Foster continued: "We know that we need to take action in the coming years to reduce the levels of ammonia if we are to achieve the improved outcomes we all want to see when it comes to nature and to public health, while also supporting local farming.
"Finding the right pathway to improvement will be crucial and we are keen to have as many views as possible from as wide a cross-section of the population on the measures proposed in the strategy.
"We would therefore encourage all interested parties to submit their views on the consultation before the closing date of 23:59 on Friday 3 March 2023."
Responses to this consultation will inform a reworked strategy with proposed targets for 2030 that can secure the restoration of biodiversity, ecosystems, and the services they provide, while also facilitating the sustainable development of a prosperous agri-food industry. That strategy will be brought to incoming ministers and a new Executive for approval.