Those working in agriculture would be forgiven for thinking that almost everyone around us is demonising farmers. Turn on the radio, look at social media, or pick up some of the mainstream papers.

As an indigenous industry that delivers huge value to rural Ireland, dairy farmers in particular take the brunt of the criticism from the anti-livestock brigade, and from some who think dairy farmers have got too big for their boots.

As an industry we can’t condone bad behaviour that damages the environment we live in. Even if we know in our heart and soul that other industries or individuals are damaging the environment by dumping nutrients or waste into rivers and streams.

Living in rural Ireland, we all know individuals either through negligence, business pressures, ignorance or for other reasons, who do things which potentially cause damage to our environment.

Broad brush strokes

This can’t continue. At the moment, given the stated intentions of our Department of Agriculture, it looks like broad brush strokes will be used to limit the potential of dairy farms by reducing the Nitrates Derogation.

Despite years of investment, lifetimes of work, huge rural and urban benefits, in one fell swoop our Department could change how the Irish dairy industry model works.

Reducing stocking rate by reducing the nitrate derogation limit means some dairy farmers will go out of business.

Ironically, what I feel it will do is change how we operate the Irish dairy industry to date by moving the goalposts for farmers to higher-yielding cows, more purchased inputs, lower profits, and more work.

Own goal

Potentially the biggest own goal the industry would ever score. I believe the farmers profiled in this supplement don’t go out with the intention every day and night to damage the environment.

Are they perfect? No. Are they willing to change? Yes. Are they changing? Yes. Are we grateful they take part in this competition to highlight what the dairy industry is? I am, I hope everyone is.

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