Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 28 February 2024

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine

Compliance with the Nitrates Directive and Implications for Ireland: Discussion (Resumed)

Mr. Noel Feeney:

I will address a number of Senator Murphy’s questions. Farmers have got terrible PR over the past couple years. It is unfair because, as he mentioned, our first environmental scheme goes back to the mid-1990s, namely, REPS, which was very successful and initiated the idea of protecting biodiversity, wildlife and water quality. Built into that environmental scheme was a nutrient management plan, which has not really been built on with successful schemes. There is a huge buy-in from farmers all over Ireland to do these schemes and be part of them. We saw around 9,500 farmers apply for the ACRES 2 before Christmas. Will they all get in? We do not know. There is a huge appetite out there.

We see it ourselves. We are dealing with farmers who are the coalface every day of the week and many of us advisers are farmers ourselves. The hoops we have to jump through are huge. Advice is needed but, at the end of the day, the bottom line is it is a huge asset to rural Ireland. The farming community in rural Ireland is huge. It goes hand in hand. Mr. Carroll will talk about succession shortly. My point is that there is a huge appetite and we need more funding for it if this is how it will be going forward. We will have wetter weather. People say our summers are now in May and June. We need to get the silage and hay made in May and June. We have seen what happened this year all of the country, even in the sunny south east. There were huge issues such as straw shortages. The roll on for that is with suckler farmers. We now have a large number of farmers in organic. There is a straw shortage as well for straw bedding. The money has to increase from Europe. This is what they demand. In this current CAP, the money has been cut. The money has been cut, yet, as farmers and advisers, we have to jump higher ditches. That is a just a comment on that. Does Mr. Carroll wish to come in on succession?