Last Thursday’s visit by Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius put the tin hat on a farcical piece of policy communication and implementation by our minister and the Department of Agriculture.

The lack of a compensation scheme, the lack of a transition period, the lack of logic in measures and mapping, on top of the farcical timeline of events since late June have all compounded to make the recent nitrates debacle one of the most badly handled, yet critically important pieces of agricultural policy.

The sad reality is that despite the talk of nitrates flexibility, the courtesy visit last Thursday of Commissioner Sinkevicius delivered nothing for Ireland.

The disillusionment and frustration by farmers since is palpable, and I now believe we seriously risk losing farmers on this water improvement journey and the investment and logic that farmers have brought to this issue.


With Teagasc science suggesting stocking rate has little tangible impact on water quality to achieve the required stabilisation of water quality trends, the ongoing derogation can only be categorised as very risky.

Therefore in terms of farmers investing in issues that will actually improve water quality, how could you stand over advice to invest more time and money in science and nutrient management when it is ignored.

After the uncertainty and anger witnessed this week I feel there is now a very real risk farmers will lose patience and goodwill to all the various water quality programmes and significant multi-million investments they are making on farms across Ireland.

When you see measured and sensible farmers that have a long history of negotiation and expertise calling for the minister’s resignation, it highlights the importance.

Farmers can’t simply turn off the tap on individual farms. Farmers have no line of sight or clarity on future rules.

This sort of leadership is unacceptable, and I seriously think it is backwards rather than forwards we are going.