IFA National Environment Chairman Thomas Cooney has welcomed the commitment in the new national Water Protection Plan to work with farmers and rural communities, to achieve further improvements in water quality.

Speaking at the launch of the River Basin Management Plan for Ireland 2018-2021 Thomas Cooney said, “The Plan acknowledges that water quality in Ireland has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade, despite a period of growth and development in the agri-food sector. However there is no room for complacency. Initiatives in the Plan such as the new Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (SSAP) provides an important platform to encourage and support behavioural change, facilitate knowledge transfer and achieve further environmental improvements.

This builds on the €5bn investment already made by farmers and the State, to ensure farms are at the highest environmental standards. This is also in addition to the 50,000 farmers who fence off water courses, plant buffer zones and participate in the agri-environment scheme GLAS.

Concluding Thomas Cooney said, “Economic and environmental sustainability go hand in hand. In IFA we will continue to highlight this through our ongoing collaboration with the EPA in the delivery of the Smart Farming programme, which is identifying €8,700 in cost savings on participating farms and ways to reduce climate and water quality impact.  The Association will also continue to engage with important initiatives such as the SSAP programme and the National Dairy Sustainability Forum.”