The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine will tackle the issue of proposed changes to the Nitrates Action Programme on its return to a full schedule tomorrow (Tuesday, September 14).

The TDs and senators will also discuss ongoing problems in the forestry sector with representatives of the Department of Agriculture.

In the first of a double-header of two-hour sessions, the committee will discuss the second stage consultation of the Nitrates Action Programme with representatives of farm organisations.

This session will begin at 9:30a.m and will be held in Committee Room 1.

The farm organisations in attendance will be: the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA); the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA); the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA) and Macra na Feirme.

The second session will begin at 3:30p.m and will take place in Committee Room 3. It will feature a discussion on the forestry sector with officials from the department.

Speaking in advance of tomorrow’s meetings, the committee’s chairperson, Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill, said: “The committee looks forward to discussing the Nitrates Action Programme second stage consultation with various representatives.

“The agri-food sector is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, contributing to 7.8% of gross national income; 7.9% of total employment; and 11.1% of all merchandise exports.

“Agri-food exports have grown by over 70% from 2009 to 2017 when they reached €13.6 billion. We should be proud to have the robust agri-food industry we have, but there are concerns,” Cahill noted.

These concerns, the Tipperary TD argued, are that “short-sighted policy changes may be having long-term effects on our agriculture industry”.

“These are concerns about the impact on farm incomes and the extent to which farmers will be financially supported to implement new measures. It is interesting to see that farming organisations have called for the cost-benefit analysis of the proposed measures and the associated improvement to water quality,” he added.

“The committee looks forward to hearing from the farming bodies and discussing with them other solutions that may not have such a detrimental effect on farming in Ireland.”

On the forestry issues, Cahill said: “The committee is anxious to hear about the progress on commitments made in the Programme for Government to address the difficulties faced by the forestry industry in Ireland.

“We would also like to raise concerns about the knock-on effect the difficulties are having on other sectors of the economy, including the construction industry where a shortage of timber supplies is causing particular strain,” the TD highlighted.

He added: “The members want an update from the department on the amount of tree felling licences issues in recent weeks and months; and clarification on why there is a delay and if it is due to the introduction of a new regulation, where projects which fall under the Habitats Directive now require an additional 30 days for public consultation.”

The committee meetings can be viewed on Oireachtas TV.