Tirlán CEO Jim Bergin is reported to have placed blame for a significant amount of nitrates problems in water at the tillage sector.

He told the European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevicius on Thursday that there were other contributors to the deterioration of water quality aside from dairy.

Referring to the River Slaney catchment, he is said to have called it “the grain belt of the southeast” and that there were other farming practices and municipal waste affecting the Slaney’s water quality.

His comments come after a meeting of the water quality working group, which was held ahead of the Commissioner’s visit.


In that meeting, Bergin is reported to have said that the tillage farming sector’s contribution to water quality in the Slaney River is significantly higher than dairy.

The CEO is said to have had an analogy about calling a plumber to fix the shower when it’s an electrical problem.

Chief inspector at the Department of Agriculture Bill Callanan is reported to have stopped the conversation quickly, as the working group does not pit sectors against one another.

Bergin is reported to have quickly enforced how important grain suppliers are to the co-op.

'Grain belt'

However, the Tirlán CEO then repeated similar comments in the meeting with the Commissioner on Thursday 23 November, this time calling the area around the Slaney River “the grain belt”, causing representatives at the meeting to feel that the tillage sector was being blamed for water quality issues.

A number of people informed the Irish Farmers Journal of the CEO’s remarks after the meeting and tillage representatives were described as livid.

Tirlán took in 180,000t of grain in harvest 2023 and claims to be the biggest buyer of Irish grains in the country.

Tirlán comment

When asked for comment from the Irish Farmers Journal on the CEO's remarks, the co-op did not address his remarks specifically.

In a statement on Monday, Tirlán stated that 30% of its milk suppliers “will be directly impacted by the reduction from 250[kg] to 220kg of organic nitrogen per hectare” and added the co-op has approved the appointment of additional advisory resources to tackle water quality.

The statement noted: “This effort needs to span the entire agricultural sector, plus all other sources of nutrients being lost to river catchments.”