“Very significant day” as Ministers launch €60 million Farming for Water EIP

The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, together with Minister of State Pippa Hackett and Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, were on the shores of Lough Ennell on March 7th, 2024 to officially launch the €60 million Water EIP “Farming for Water” project aimed at improving water quality at local, catchment and national levels.

LAWPRO Director, Anthony Coleman was on hand to  explain the origins of the Farming for Water EIP.

Minister for Agriculture , Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue launched the programme.

The project is a collaborative approach between the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, working in partnership with the agri-food industry to improve water quality. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will support the project through the provision of funding of €50 million for participating farmers, co-funded by the National Exchequer and the EU, with the objective of involving 15,000 farmers in priority areas nationally. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will provide the administrative support for the project to the value of €10 million.

Through this European Innovation Partnership (EIP-AGRI) project, an operational group has been established by the Local Authority Waters Programme (LAWPRO), in partnership with Teagasc, Dairy Industry Ireland (DII) and Bord Bia, and with the support of other stakeholders, to work in partnership with farmers in the implementation of a number of targeted actions at farm level to improve water quality.

Minister McConalogue said:

“This government wants to improve water quality and also wants to ensure Ireland and Irish farmers secure a nitrates derogation from 2026. Today’s investment of €60 million is proof of the Government’s commitment to support farmers in their efforts to achieve those dual aims.

“The future of our farms, and the families on those farms, are largely dependent on successful water quality outcomes and I am absolutely confident farmers will not be found wanting in delivering those outcomes. The success of this EIP will be a source of inspiration, encouraging more leadership, more action and more engagement with water initiatives across all farm types and farm sizes.

“This project is a key component in our ongoing efforts to improve water quality and the sustainability of our agricultural practices at a national level, but it is just one element. It is part of a suite of measures to bolster those efforts. This includes a national multi-actor Water Quality Advisory Campaign, led by Teagasc as well as increased compliance and enforcement activity across my own Department and the Local Authorities.

Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett, continued:

“As Minister with responsibility for both EIPs and biodiversity, I am delighted to support this flagship EIP, which demonstrates this Government’s commitment to maintaining and improving water quality in Ireland. This is our largest EIP to date, both in terms of funding and in its ambition in relation to the role that agriculture can play in improving water quality and, by extension, the benefits for nature and biodiversity that will accrue as a result.”

Minister of State for Nature, Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan T.D, commented:

“Our rivers, lakes, estuaries and bays are at the heart of what we value about Ireland’s environment. Improving the quality of their waters is vital – not just for nature and wildlife, but also for public health and wellbeing – and it’s by working together that we will yield the greatest results. This unique and innovative collaboration brings the farming community, the food processing industries, LAWPRO, ASSAP and the two government departments together with a single aim. It is testament to the commitment of Government departments and the agricultural sector in taking ownership of their role in improving water quality.”

Anthony Coleman, Director of LAWPRO, representing the Operational Group added:

“This Water EIP represents a significant opportunity for us to engage and collaborate with the agricultural sector to deliver improvements in water quality throughout the country. We will be working hand-in-hand with farmers to introduce more nature-based solutions as well as supporting community organisations to work on delivery of water quality measures that will benefit our environment, economy and society.

This water stewardship initiative follows catchment science principles and focuses on multiple benefits, including climate and biodiversity. I am delighted that this project is now underway and we have a team in place who will work in conjunction with our partners Teagasc, ASSAP, Dairy Industry Ireland and other stakeholders.”

Some of the measures included on the farm of David and Roisin Fay on their farm included solar powered troughs.

The EIP initiative is co-funded by the European Commission and the Irish Government as part of Ireland’s Rural Development Programme and will be continued under the CAP Strategic Plan.

In this case, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will fund farmer actions, while the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will fund the Operational Group’s administrative costs.

This EIP initiative involves a range of stakeholders (farmers, advisors, researchers, NGOs) coming together in what are termed ‘Operational Groups’ to trial innovative solutions that the Group themselves have developed.

Further information on the European Innovation Partnership (AGRI) may be found on Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine website.

Dr Fran Igoe addressing the attendance at the launch