Food Wise 2025 identifies “Sustainability” as a central requirement of food production and management of our environment whilst also recognising that Ireland does face significant challenges in meeting some national and international environmental targets. Agriculture has a key role to play in contributing to meeting these targets.
One of my priorities is to ensure Ireland and Irish food producers are playing, and continue to play, a vital and positive role in the protection and enhancement of Ireland’s landscapes, waterways, biodiversity and air quality. In this regard, I launched the 4th Nitrates Action Programme (NAP) on the 4th December 2017 in cooperation with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, which yielded a package of measures that raises the bar in tackling agricultural impacts on water. A key feature of successive reviews has been focus on maximising the nutrient value of recycled slurry and organic manure, offsetting chemical fertiliser requirement.
The Nitrates Action Programme emphasises the importance of knowledge transfer to ensure that farmers fully understand how best to protect the natural waters on or close to their lands. Furthermore, opportunities for large savings on farms through better grassland management, improved timing and application of fertiliser and the use of Low Emission Spreading Equipment have been taken into account in order to gain efficiencies and maximise the use of our resources.
In addition, my Department provides a range of supports for diverse farming practices under a number of areas including Horticulture, TAMS (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes), Organics and GLAS (Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme)
In order to measure our achievements at both farmer and food business level, Origin Green enables Ireland’s food industry to measure our sustainability credentials. For farmers, this involves the participation in Bord Bia’s Sustainable Assurance Schemes.
While continuing to explore the future development of the diverse agri-food sector in Ireland, I will continue to base my policies and approaches on the best science and research available in order to enhance and maximise the continued economic, social and environmental sustainability of our natural resources.