President of the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) Pat McCormack has said that the process of reconciling farming and food production to environmental realities is complex and much more multifaceted than An Taisce appears willing to recognise.
Slamming An Taisce's legal challenge to Ireland's nitrates derogation, the Tipperary farmer said that the body’s continued adoption of absolutist positions that were unwilling to recognise the social, economic and cultural aspects to the issue, in addition to its own environmental focus, meant that it was removing itself from meaningful contributions to progress.
“ICMSA is like most other bodies concerned with this; we want to be part of the solution because farmers want to be part of the solution.
"An Taisce’s approach seems to be predicated on the idea that commercial farming in Ireland has to be ended and removed from any future scenario, with rural communities becoming some kind of nature reserve with a few organic farms scattered throughout," he said.
McCormack also said that farmers have given An Taisce many, many, chances to meaningfully provide complex answers to complex questions.
However, he said farmers have never gotten that from An Taisce, adding that the body has to start asking itself whether it is wasting their time.
"We have no chance of working our way through to the feasible solution on reconciling sustainability and commercial farming while we continue to indulge groups who do not want to recognise what’s possible and over what period," said McCormack.
In a statement on An Taisce's website, it said that the application submitted to the High Court is rooted in the undisputed evidence of continuing deterioration of water quality in Ireland, where all the indicators are negative and continuing in a downward direction.
"These figures are damning proof that previous NAPs have failed to meet their purpose, which is to enable Ireland to fulfil the objectives of the Nitrates Directive," it said.
If An Taisce is successful in quashing Ireland's NAP and the nitrates derogation, the small farmer would be hit the hardest, IFA dairy chair Stephen Arthur has said.
"The majority of the derogation farmers are the lads with 70 or 80 cows farming their own land base the best they can and maybe renting a bit of land up the road or exporting a bit of slurry.
"I think it's disappointing that they are going to go this road. I thought they would have sat still for about two years to see how things work," he said.
Arthur added that the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP) should be extended to every river in the country, adding that it's currently only covering 20% of Irish rivers but delivering a 30% improvement in water quality.
"It's a simple little programme and they don't seem to want to wait and develop it, they just seem to want to come in with the sledge hammer," he said.
"We've invested so much in science here, we have measures brought into place on 1 January - give them a chance to work.
"Farmers have spent €1.2bn in yards in the last five years, let's open up the TAMS and put more tanks in the ground to utilise their slurry better," he said.
He argued that there should be constructive progress made with taxpayers money through accelerated tax breaks and increasing the TAMS, not putting it into court cases.
Ireland's rural economy and "rural fabric" has to be minded, he said.
"We can't throw it all out just because there are few people there who think they want to save the planet," he said.