Farmers realise environmental considerations and maintaining water quality must be their first consideration if plans to massively expand by 2025 are to be realised, says Conor Mulvihill, director of Dairy Industry Ireland.
The dairy and agri-food sector is undergoing a transformation with environment and sustainability topping its agenda, he says.
A total of 23,000 dairy farmers are to receive advice on best practice on sustainability and water. In addition, a new advisory programme involving the State and the dairy industry will see the appointment of 30 “sustainability advisers” trained by Teagasc to work closely with farmers.
Farmers have to get it right if they are going to achieve 2025 targets for expansion. There's no choice. We must do it
“Advisers will engage collaboratively with farmers to promote agricultural best practice across the dairy sector in 190 targeted ‘areas for action’ across the country,” he confirms. Dairy co-ops are to pay for the employment of 10 of the advisers.
Advice and support
The programme will provide advice and support to farmers, improve their knowledge and encourage behavioural change “as the cornerstone of the drive towards better farming practice and water quality”. The move takes on board what New Zealand, Denmark and the Netherlands have achieved to become global leaders in agricultural sustainability.
“We have one chance to get it right. ‘Greenwashing’ was the last thing we wanted.”
“Farmers have to get it right if they are going to achieve 2025 targets for expansion. There’s no choice. We must do it . . . otherwise the licence to produce is gone,” he says.
IFA national environment chairman Thomas Cooney welcomed the commitment to work with farmers and rural communities, and to achieve further improvements in water quality.
“It acknowledges water quality in Ireland has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, despite a period of growth and development in the agri-food sector. However, there is no room for complacency.
“This builds on the €5 billion investment already made by farmers and the State to ensure farms are at the highest environmental standards. This is also in addition to the 50,000 farmers who fence off water courses, plant buffer zones and participate in the agri-environment scheme Glas.”