“The Department must engage in genuine negotiations with farmers to agree a NAP that achieves its objectives to protect water quality from agricultural sources, without placing unnecessary and excessive requirements on farmers.”

That is according to IFA environment chair Paul O’Brien who was speaking about the urgency of nitrates negotiations.

He said: “The outcome of the current review will have significant implications for farmers across all sectors of Irish agriculture.”

He said that farmers will need time to adapt to revised measures at their own individual farm level.

“A one-size-fits-all approach must not be adopted. The measures introduced must reflect the different production systems and management practices on farms,” he said.

He said that, as “custodians of the environment”, farmers cannot accept the review being used to deliver climate objectives when the benefits to water quality are still unconfirmed.

Targeted measures needed

According to the IFA, results from programmes like the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advice Programme (ASSAP) show that targeted measures offered the greatest potential to improve outcomes for water quality on Irish farms. Any changes must be practical and take account of the different farm practices across various sectors.

According to O’Brien the Government must introduce grant aid and accelerated capital allowance (ACA) schemes to support farmers where costs are imposed.

This would allow farmers “to realise the greater environmental standards, which would benefit the entire country” he feels.