The launch this week of a new Teagasc Better Farming for Water campaign does a couple of things.

It rightly makes water quality more of an issue for all farmers, not just the approximately 7,000 derogation farmers. It moves water quality higher up the Teagasc agenda and builds into a campaign for additional awareness and understanding of water quality which is very positive.

However, the success of the campaign will be measured with how it incorporates other contributing sectors – not just farmers.

Farmers can’t be seen as the only actors for disimproved water quality and a recognition of this in the form of a high-level, cross sector grouping would be important.

Investment is required

Other pressures on water such as wastewater and sewage must be recognised.

The campaign also doesn’t take away from the fact that investment is required at farm level and remains the biggest elephant in the room. Farmers need certainty on stocking rates before they can invest in additional slurry storage so fixing this must be a priority for this new grouping and initiative.

It also doesn’t take away from the fact that science was ignored from the existing water catchment programme when the most recent stocking rate reduction was imposed by the EU.

That means political understanding and campaigning on the facts to politicians is crucial to achieve any positive outcome for water quality regulations going forward.

Dairy comparison to US is unfair

President Michael D Higgins comments this week, published in the Irish Examiner, comparing how milk is produced in the United States with how it is produced in Ireland were very disappointing and uninformed.

The differences are stark. Suggesting the removal of milk quotas was a negative move shows how out of touch our president is with rural Ireland. Any opportunity to exploit our competitive advantage to grow grass and convert it into high value, world-renowned, environmentally positive product should be welcomed.

Dairy sector

Investment in rural Ireland is necessary and without viable rural businesses, farm families and rural dwellers will not stay in their communities. The dairy sector plays a part in that as do the suckler, sheep and tillage sectors. The president’s more positive comments on rewarding farm families for environmental goods and the cost of changing enterprises are interesting and welcome.