Farm Ireland

Thursday 26 April 2018

Latest water rules spark farmer fury

Rathangan farmers Phillip and Brendan
Doyle, and Mark and Sammy Holohan chat at the conference
Rathangan farmers Phillip and Brendan Doyle, and Mark and Sammy Holohan chat at the conference
Majella O'Sullivan

Majella O'Sullivan

Irish farmers will be forced to dramatically change farming practices to comply with the new Water Framework Directive.

More rigorous farm inspections will be carried out by the Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture and co-ordinated by local authorities aimed at an estimated 31pc of non-compliant farmers.

There were angry scenes at the National Tillage Conference in Carlow when farmers were told they faced an even more stringent regime.

The head of Teagasc's crop research centre warned the fallout would create "as big a row" as the Nitrates Directive.


Colin Byrne from the Department of the Environment said the measures were necessary for Ireland to reach its target of 100pc water purity by 2015, from its current 70pc.

"The control of pollution from agriculture remains a significant challenge to achieving water-quality standards in Ireland.

"Pollution from agricultural sources accounts for 31pc of pollution incidences," Mr Byrne said.

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The directive will have significant implications for the tillage sector in particular, the conference heard.

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that elevated nitrate concentrates have been consistently observed in both ground water and surface water in the east and south east, the tillage heartland.

Teagasc's Professor Jimmy Burke warned that to ignore the measure would be folly.

"Of course there'll be some pain but we've got to accept it and move on and adapt and change the way we do things.

"We're not going to have the same freedom we had in the past," he said.

However, he said farmers would not accept "daft regulations" that were unworkable and needed sensible guidelines they could live with.

"If we are smarter and use more modern technologies and techniques we'll certainly make a big difference, but to ignore it would be folly because it is not going to go away and we'd better get used to dealing with it and adapting and moving forward," he said.

Tillage farmers will also have to have their land tested this year for organic matter content if it has been committed to tillage for more than six years, the conference heard. Soil has to be tested to make sure its organic-matter content has not been unduly depleted.

Irish Independent