Livestock farmers in the EU face the possibility of requiring an environmental permit to keep animals – in other words, a license to farm.

New European Commission proposals come as part of the Industrial Emissions Directive and would apply to dairy farms with more than 100 cows and suckler farmers with 80-plus cows and keeping young stock. Pig farmers with 300 sows or more and poultry units with over 11,000 birds would also be affected.

However, the commission said it would take into account other considerations when assessing who requires a permit, such as extensive or organic farms.

The permits are designed to take better control of emissions and pollution produced by farms. When applying for a permit, farmers will have to give details on the number and type of animals, as well as the sources of emissions on their farms.

The permits are to be made available to the public free of charge on the internet which will cost the EU £220m. The new rules could be in place for the start of 2027.

Farmers who breach the compliance around the permit could have it revoked, which could see animals banned from the farm. This has caused outrage amongst farmers, with Irish Farmers' Association president, Tim Cullinan, calling for the proposal to be thrown out. He said: “It is outrageous to be including livestock grazing in fields within the scope of this directive, as well as drastically cutting the limits on the pig and poultry sectors.”

Brussels-based farmer representative organisation, Copa and Cogeca, highlighted the contrast between the new restrictive rules and last month's drive for food autonomy in the EU. It said: “Many family farms will fall under the scope of this directive and are de facto classified by the Commission as agro-industrial installations.”

Copa president, Christiane Lambert, complained that none of the EU’s competing trading partners were looking to introduce similar rules. He believed that EU consumers would not accept increased prices and so any associated additional costs would land back on farmers.