As citizens of Ireland, in line with public health advice issued by NPHET [National Public Health Emergency Team], and adopted by government, we are all acutely aware of the need to act responsibly in the middle of a global pandemic.

The farming community is playing its part in our societal efforts to ‘keep us all safe’ and we in Independent Farmers believe that this is the right thing to do.

We are unhappy with a number of policy inconsistencies in particular from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications.

On the policy front, while the country remains in Level 5 [restrictions], we cannot reconcile how on one hand ‘public transport can operate at 25% capacity for the purposes of allowing those providing essential services to get to work’ while marts are prohibited from allowing buyers into the sales.

Marts are a ‘semi-enclosed space’ with the potential for much greater social distancing than any ‘confined space’ bus on the streets of the capital.

To us in rural Ireland, this policy decision smacks of the policy makers looking after themselves and screw the rural citizens.

TB testing during global pandemic

Farmers continue to be subjected to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine farm inspections and bovine TB and brucellosis herd tests, which in our view directly contravenes the public health advice.

The dogs on the streets know that the farming community is an ageing community and neighbours are required to assist each other in assembling and managing cattle before and during these events, thereby creating the conditions for the spread of the virus.

This policy must be changed immediately with changes remaining in place should we require to re-enter Level 5 in future.

Water troughs

The most recent ‘outrageous proposal’ which yet again has been blamed on the EU, is the need to relocate all water troughs some 20m from any drain, wet or dry, by January 1, 2021. This proposal is illogical and impractical and must be abandoned.

The proposed change cannot be communicated to the bovine community who will continue to ‘relieve themselves wherever they see fit’, irrespective of where the water trough is located in the field.

Up along the west coast of Ireland in small holdings of marginal land, the driest site to position a water trough is on the bank of the trench, minimising the potential for poaching of the surrounding ground.

Furthermore, certain plots of 1ac or less will be become unusable as some are completely surrounded by drains and it may not be possible to locate the water troughs 20m from every existing drain.

Relocating water troughs away from drains comes at a substantial cost, as the pipe feeding the trough will need to be undergrounded to facilitate topping the pasture around the centrally located water trough. Who is going to pay for that, as farmers cannot afford it?

Irish Water criticism

This proposed change by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications comes at a time when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is highlighting the failures of yet another stage agency – Irish Water.

The EPA has said delays in upgrading wastewater treatment systems around the country are prolonging risks to the environment and public health.

A new report has said Irish Water is failing to treat wastewater to national and EU standards.

The EPA’s director of enforcement Dr. Tom Ryan has said raw sewage is flowing into rivers and seas in 33 places across Ireland and ‘that is the equivalent of wastewater coming from 78,000 people around the country’.

The Department of Agriculture the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and Irish Water need to get their act together and explain to the public why dairy farmers are being banned from using chlorine-based products to sterilise their equipment while Irish Water continues to use chlorine-based products in the purification of potable water for human consumption.

Independent Farmers now calls on the government and state departments to get their own house in order first and stop persecuting the farming community.

From Seamus Shannon, Independent Farmers of Ireland