EU reviews Industrial Emissions Directive

Dairy farm

By Jenny Brunton - Senior European Policy Advisor

On 5 April 2022, the European Commission presented proposals to update the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), bringing much more of the EU’s livestock sector into the scope of the rules controlling pollution.


The Commission's proposals include the IED now covering the rearing of cattle, pigs or poultry in installations of 150 livestock units (LSU) or more, & rearing of any mix of the following animals: cattle, pigs, poultry, in installations of 150 LSU or more. 

According to the Commission, the IED currently covers around 50,000 large industrial installations & intensive livestock farms in Europe. The 2010 law originally covered intensive rearing of poultry or pigs with more than 40,000 poultry or with more than 2,000 pigs (over 30kg), or with more than 750 places for sows. Less strict emission limits would be established by the competent authority as a derogation only where an assessment shows that the achievement of emission levels would lead to disproportionately high costs compared to environmental benefits due to i) the geographical location or local environmental conditions of the installations and ii) technical characteristics of the installation.

Update – 17 March 2023

Member States seek exclusion of extensive farms from IED

On 16 the European Council reached a general approach on the IED:

Ministers agreed that the scope of the Directive should apply to cattle, pig and mixed farms with 350 or more livestock units (LSU) and to poultry farms with 280 or more LSU. Those thresholds are significantly higher than those suggested by the Commission, which suggested including farms with at least 150 livestock units.

The Council has also called for farms with extensive production (below 2 LSU/hectares used only for grazing or growing fodder or forage) to be excluded from the directive.

The main point of disagreement between Member States was the LSU threshold of farms subject to emissions restriction under the Directive:

  • Denmark, Ireland, Finland, the Netherlands and Luxembourg deemed that the General Approach lacked ambition with regard to the proposed LSU thresholds. Notably, the Netherlands would have hoped for stick to the Commission’s proposal of 150 LSU, and Ireland for 250 LSU instead of 350 LSU.
  • Another group of Member States comprised of Italy, Lithuania, Cyprus, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary argued that the level of ambitions are too high and worried of the impact of the inclusion of additional rearing installations under the scope of the Directive. Hence, they argued that the LSU thresholds should be higher. Lithuania asked for further transition measures for rearing farms and Bulgaria abstained from voting on the General Approach due to this issue.

For Copa and Cogeca, the compromise reached by Member States is far from being sufficient, leaving a lot of grey areas. At least, the heated debates surrounding the negotiations brought clarity on one point: the threshold approach proposed initially by the European Commission is primarily political, punitive and will have unanticipated consequences when applied on-farm.

Livestock unit coefficients

Bovine animals

Under 1 year old



1 but less than 2 years old



Male, 2 years old and over



Heifers, 2 years old and over



Dairy cows



Other cows, 2 years old and over


Sheep and goats




Piglets having a live weight of under 20 kg



Breeding sows weighing 50 kg and over



Other pigs






Laying hens



Other poultry