A decision by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue to meet with the Oireachtas Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and Marine later this month has been welcomed by its members.
The minister had previously reported to the committee that he would not be able to attend a meeting to discuss Ireland’s water quality and nitrates derogation until October.
However Senator Tim Lombard has confirmed that Minister McConalogue has now given a commitment that he will meet with the influential committee within weeks.
Senator Lombard said:’ I’ve been critical of the ministers decision not to meet with the committee until October 4 and I welcome that after significant pressure, Minister McConalogue has reconsidered and will now come before the committee Friday September, 15.
“I’ve said previously that time is ticking on this crucial issue and it was inconceivable to me that the Minister for Agriculture thought it acceptable to wait until October to attend a committee meeting which he was invited to attend back in July.”
The senator said there is “fear and frustration” among farmers about a potential drop in Ireland’s current nitrates derogation.
He said that farmers who attended that he had organized earlier this week had sent a clear message that “it’s 250 or nothing”
“There is an onus on Minister McConalogue to bring clarity and provide an update on what is being done behind the scenes.
“This includes the work of the agriculture water quality working group he set up and most importantly when we can expect a delegation from the European Commission to come here.
“I’ve consistently said that a delegation from the European Commission must visit and meet directly with stakeholders so that they can see for themselves the commitment by Irish farmers to improving water quality and get an appreciation of the implications of any decision to reduce derogation levels .
“The minister and his department must ensure this visit happens before any decision on derogation is finalised,” Senator Lombard added.
Minister McConalogue is due to outline the case to retain Ireland’s current nitrates derogation to the EU next week.
The minister will hold a video call with European Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, on Monday evening (September 4).
The pair will be joined on the call by officials from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and the commissioner’s office.