The Agricultural Sustainability Support & Advisory Programme (ASSAP) is an innovative Government/industry initiative running from 2018 to 2021 and involves a well structured collaborative initiative involving all stakeholders, including the wider community, to facilitate improvements in water quality. The ASSAP involves a resource of 30 Agricultural Sustainability Advisors, 20 of whom are funded by Government and 10 by the Dairy Industry. These Advisors will promote on-farm best practice to farmers in 190 ‘Areas for Action’, which have been identified by the EPA where the status of the water is at risk of regressing. Farmers can avail of this service within the ‘Areas for Action’ on a voluntary basis. The initial focus for the Sustainability Advisors is on water quality, this will be broadened over time to other sustainability issues.
Advisors have now received comprehensive training to ensure a common approach. The process of engagement with both the wider communities and with farmers in these areas is now underway. Community meetings are taking place in the ‘Areas-for-Action’ to update the wider communities on developments in the local areas; 15 such community meetings will take place before the year end. Furthermore farmer focused meetings will take place providing the opportunity for engagement with farmers in these areas. It is important to note the very strong support from all those involved in farming for the programme; this support is crucial in communicating and informing farmers about the ASSAP programme and facilitating farmer engagement.