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. Breian Carroll:

According to the national record, there are approximately 137,000 farmers in Ireland, of whom some 43,000 are with Teagasc. Figures from the Department estimate there are 55,000 farmers with our association. We must not forget that there are another 30,000 quota farmers who are outside having a direct influence from an adviser.

I will make one comment on the TAMS. In the previous TAMS it was extremely helpful when we went out to farms that we knew 12 months in advance what the deadlines were for TAMS. We have asked for that information again and we are hopeful it can be given very soon. If I go to a farmer next week to provide that service, we know there is a deadline in April, but we would like to know at this stage what the deadlines will be in 2025. When we are talking to a farmer we know how to get around the dates for planning and the targets we need to hit on TAMS over the next 12 months. That is critically important. We knew that with TAMS 2 and was extremely helpful.

On ASSAP, we have some members who have a large proportion of farmers in the programme in the catchment areas. They do not understand the objectives of ASSAP because they were not asked or informed about what the objectives are in this catchment area. We have a substantial number of clients in those areas. There needs to be a holistic approach taken by everybody to tackle the issue of water quality. We cannot go to one farm and skip another. There needs to be a complete understanding by all the farmers in the catchment area and we need to work with the private advisory service that has customers in that area, along with everybody else. There also needs to be consistent messaging. If I or my members are going out to advise farmers, the messages about the objectives for the ASSAP programme need to be the same. It is critical for the collaboration that everybody in the area is pulling together to meet those targets.

My last comment is on the IT issue. Our association would love IT funding to be trebled in order to improve the systems we work on. To go back to what Senator Lombard said, tolerance is just as important for us. The systems are easy to work and navigate. However, if there is a clerical error, as I said earlier, it is important that we get an opportunity, on behalf of the customer, to rectify it. It is not a big ask. Other sectors in society get ten or 14 days. It is important that we have the same opportunity.