Environment & Rural Affairs Council Report September 2020

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Environment & Rural Affairs Council Report September 2020
10 Sep 2020

Environment & Rural Affairs Council Report September 2020

Council Reports, Environment Reports

Policy Proposals

Significant Water Management Issues

  • IFA has made a submission to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage on the Significant Water Management Issues for the Third Cycle River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2022 – 2027. Some of the main points within it include:
  • Positive actions taken by farmers to benefit water quality and the surrounding environment e.g. GLAS, GAP Regulations, and ASSAP etc.
  • The significant investments farmers have made to ensure compliance with Nitrates regulations.
  • The importance of avoiding a top-down approach to policies, regarding land use planning for improved water quality and the wider environment.
  • The need for support schemes for farm practices to reduce nutrient losses to waters, such as liming, as per the programme for government commitment.
  • The reduction and lack of funding to match increased environmental ambitions of the Farm to Fork Strategy/ CAP.
  • The need to recognise the multiple societal benefits agriculture provides, such as food security and carbon sequestration.
  • Ireland’s favourable position in Europe regarding water quality.

Market Report

Under the Nitrates Regulations, the Department of Agriculture propose to introduce the latest nitrogen excretion figure for a dairy cow (89kg) by 2021. IFA has met with the department to address our concerns with the timelines.

Announced under Ireland’s forth Nitrates Action Plan 2018 – 2021, from January 1st 2021 direct runoff from farm road ways into watercourses is prohibited. In light of this, at the end of July, the Department of Agriculture published “Minimum Specification for Farm Roadways,” which is available here.

Activity Since Last Council

Acquisition of Certain Lands for National Roads

  • This agreement is due to expire at the end of 2020, hence a letter has been sent to Transport Infrastructure Ireland to start negotiations in terms of reviewing and renewing this agreement for future developments.

Nitrates Regulations

  • A teams meeting was held with the Department of Agriculture to relay IFA’s concerns around the implementation for the increased nitrogen excretion figure of a dairy cow. Following this, a letter was sent to ministerial level to seek a meeting to discuss this further.

Greenways

Galway to Athlone Greenway:

  • The first public consultation on the Galway to Athlone Greenway was held over a two-week period, which was well attended by IFA representation.

Draft Code of Practice:

  • A sixth version of the Draft Code of Practice has been developed which was discussed at a sub-committee meeting with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII). TII are seeking to have this finalised over coming weeks. In the meantime, TII have agreed to meet IFA individually to discuss our concerns.

Waterways Ireland

There has been initial contact between IFA and Waterways Ireland regarding some issues arising as a result of Greenway developments, which will continue over the next two weeks with meetings to address landowners concerns.

County Executives and Other Meetings

Committee updates were provided at the Fresh Milk Producers Committee. Meetings, visits and correspondence also took place on the following topics: Compulsory Purchase Orders, the National Water Forum, the National Federation of Group Water Scheme, Smart Farming, Irish Fertiliser Association and ASSAP.

Due to COVID lockdown restrictions in County Laois, a meeting with Irish Water regarding the sterilisation of lands surrounding water abstraction points had to be postponed.

Smart Farming Virtual Farm talk

On August 28th, Smart Farming held a virtual farm talk consisting of demonstration videos on the following topics:

  • The potential of multispecies swards to reduce environmental impact
  • Nutrient application to reduce environmental efficiency
  • Riverside management from the ASSAP programme
  • Farm management with biodiversity

The demonstration videos can be viewed here.

EU COPA Developments

IFA has made a submission to the OECD on reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of environmental policies in Ireland. The main points highlighted in the submission include:

  • How Irish policy lags behind European policy when it comes to facilating community engagement and participation in renewable energy.
  • How reporting methodologies of GHG’s can be improved for a more accurate representation of methane, but also how focusing solely on “total emissions” overlooks “the efficiency of production,” which can be contrary to the overall objective of lowering GHG’s globally.
  • How the CAP has seen a strengthening of environmental sustainability through the adoption of practices at farm level but fails to provide economic sustainability.

As part of the European Green Deal, the Commission held a public consultation, the EU Methane Strategy. IFA made a submission to this, and the main points include:

  • The need for a more accurate accounting methodology to better represent methane’s warming effect on the planet.
  • The importance of food production and food security in light of addressing climate change as highlighted in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement.
  • How practical actions can be taken farm level to have a positive contribution to lowering GHG’s, such as improved breeding, grassland management etc.
  • The need for further research on feed additives, and subsequently supports at farm level.

Upcoming Issues

  • An onsite meeting will be held with Irish Water in relation to sterilised lands surrounding water abstraction points in early September.
  • Onsite meeting(s) will be held with Waterways Ireland regarding issues arising on some lands affected by Greenway developments in early September.
  • A meeting will be arranged to assist a number of landowners in who have been approached by a renewable energy company seeking to lease their lands.
Chairman Paul O’Brien
Executive Peter Linden
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