Dave Foster, director of natural environment policy at DAERA, said the decision to extend the call for evidence for four weeks was taken because the department may not have gathered sufficient evidence for consideration to update the existing operational protocol.
He said: “We are urging everyone with an interest in this issue including academics, environmental groups, and the agri-food sector, to submit any evidence they have that would contribute to DAERA developing an updated, scientifically robust Operational Protocol.
“We know that urgent action is needed on this issue, so it has been a difficult decision to extend the deadline for a second time, but stakeholders have asked for additional time to support the provision of evidence in this process.
“Our goal is to deliver an evidence-informed solution which protects and improves the environment, whilst supporting a sustainable agriculture sector.”
A new operation protocol would not be approved until a minister and Executive is appointed in Northern Ireland.
The new closing date for the call for evidence is 27 October 2023.