There are signs that there is a more united approach in the efforts to improve water quality and retain Ireland nitrates derogation. That was according to senior inspector with the Department of Agriculture Ted Massey, speaking at the Dairygold 'Farming for Water' event in Co Cork on Friday.

Compared with other years, he said: “The big change we are seeing this time is that everyone is working together - farmers, industry and politicians.”

Stating that one of the weaknesses in the nitrates directive at EU level is that it only allows for a derogation to apply on a four-year cycle, he said Ireland has given notice that it will be seeking another nitrates derogation and will formally engage with the European Commission later on this year.


Massey said: “Ultimately, we’ll have to go to Brussels, we’ll have to present on Irish water quality data, our unique grass-based farming system and then what we’re doing as an industry to reduce the loss of nutrients to water.

"Those presentations will be made next year and the Commission made it clear they want to see improvements in water quality.

Our objective in that is very clear. We want to secure the maximum possible, scientifically-justified stocking rate that we can.”

Conor Mulvihill, Dairy Industry Ireland; Sean O'Brien, Dairygold chair; Frank O'Meara, Teagasc; Ted Massey, chief inspector DAFM; Billy Kelleher MEP; at the panel discussion at the Dairygold Farming for Water event at Bandon on Friday.

He added that improving water quality was not the sole preserve of dairy farmers in derogation and input would be needed from the wider rural community.

In response to a question regarding the nitrates levels in other EU countries, he said that Ireland is in the top third of countries when it comes to lower nitrates levels in water.

A large crowd attended the event on the farm of Raymond Goggin at Templemartin, Bandon.

There was a high proportion of politicians present, including members of the Oireachteas, along with current and prospective councilors and MEPs.

They heard of the three key areas farmers must focus on when it comes to improving water quality - nutrient management, farmyard management and land management.