The Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine, Michael Creed TD, has announced the roll-out of an innovative collaboration between Government and industry delivering 30 new ‘Agricultural Sustainability Advisors’ to work with farmers across the country. These advisors will oversee the implementation of a Programme aimed at encouraging sustainable farming, while meeting stringent water quality requirements on over 5,000 farms nationwide.
Commenting on the rollout of the project, Minister Creed said: “This initiative will support a free one-to-one sustainability advisory service to more than 5,000 farmers to encourage behavioral change, facilitate knowledge transfer and achieve better on-farm environmental outcomes. Supported by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and by Dairy Industry Ireland, this Programme can be seen as a unique programme across Europe as reflected by the acknowledgement of the EU Commission.”
Outlining details of how the Programme will operate, the Minister added: “Of the 30 new Agricultural Sustainability Advisors assigned to the programme, 20 are located in Teagasc, while 10 who have undergone the same programme of training, will operate within the dairy processors’ organisational structures. Staff have been recruited and trained by the EPA and Teagasc and are now commencing their work programme.“
The Agricultural Sustainability Support & Advisory Programme (ASSAP) arises from the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021. The plan identified that agriculture is a significant pressure in over 50% of waters at risk of not meeting their ecological target of “good” status by 2027.
In accordance with the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy), this Plan sets out a comprehensive programmes of measures to enhance the quality of water in Ireland’s rivers, lakes, estuaries, coastal waters and groundwater. The objective is to support best farming practice and minimise its impact on water quality.
Sean Keating of Tipperary County Council, on behalf of the local authorities, welcomed the collaboration and the commitment to making this happen and which is now being rolled out today. A series of public meetings is commencing shortly in identified ‘at risk’ water catchments, which will be aimed at the wider public and not just farmers. “Separately, a series of river and stream visits will take place for farmers only to show the impact of agriculture on water and advise on possible remedial actions.”
Pat Murphy, CEO of Kerry Ingredients and current chair of Dairy Industry Ireland outlined: “The Dairy industry is committed to sustainable production and our commitment to the programme is evidence of this. It is critical that dairy production enhances its current positive image and delivers on its sustainable objectives.”
Professor Tom Kelly, Director of Knowledge Transfer in Teagasc, said; “Teagasc is committed to supporting farmers to maintain and improve the quality of our waterways. This new Agricultural Sustainability Support & Advisory Programme, will help farmers to farm sustainably from an environmental, economic and social perspective.“