‘Carrot rather than stick approach’ best way to improve water quality

The “early success” of the Agricultural Sustainability Support and Advisory Programme (ASSAP), and its approach, has been welcomed by Macra na Feirme.

The young farmers’ organisation lauded the programme, which focuses on improving water quality in 190 specific water bodies across the country.

The interim ASSAP report was launched on Friday, June 19.

Covering the period 2018-2019, the report highlights the 96% farmer engagement rate in the voluntary programme with 89% of farmers agreeing with proposed on-farm measures to improve water quality.

Macra noted that the initiative’s approach – which involves farmers, scientists, specialists, Teagasc and dairy cooperative on-farm advisors – “will help to return dividends in terms of improving water quality”.

The rural youth association also argued that the programme “clearly demonstrates” that farmers are willing to play their part in improving water quality.

Macra na Feirme national president Thomas Duffy commented on the report, stating: “The success of the programme is based on the premise of a targeted approach with the correct measure in the right place that also takes into account farmers’ knowledge of their land characteristics.

This initiative demonstrates that the carrot rather that the stick approach to encourage changing practices at farm level to improving water quality is the best way to proceed.

The voluntary programme adopts a science-based approach backed up with a dedicated on-farm advisory support with input from farmers who know their own land.

The programme is supported by a range of stakeholders including government departments, Teagasc, the farm organisations, dairy cooperatives, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local authorities and Dairy Sustainability Ireland.