Monthly newsletter of the National Rural Network - June 2016
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Connecting Communities

growing our future 

June 2016

Welcome to the fourth issue of the NRN's monthly newsletter. The goal of the National Rural Network (NRN) 2016-2020 is to inform the broader public and potential beneficiaries about rural development policy and funding opportunities. In this issue we explore a number of key issues for rural communities. For more see
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Fifth National Rural Network Meeting – Arts and Culture in Rural Areas

 Rural Development Programme 2014-2020

Dr. Marie Mahon and Dr Maura FarrDr Marie Mahon and Dr Maura Farrell at ENRD Conference in Amsterdamell, NUIG and Research Team for the National Rural Network attended the 5th NRNs Meeting (2014-2020) in Amsterdam recently. The meeting focused on arts and culture initiatives and how they can stimulate rural development in Europe.  The research team provided a presentation relating to the recent Rural Economic Development Zones (REDZ) pilot initiative, which provided funding for local authorities and interested stakeholders to devise and implement projects that foster a sense of ownership of the REDZ development process.  The Shannon Arts Development project was presented at the conference as an example of a REDZ funded project directly related to Arts and Culture.


Agri-Environment & Climate Change 

Challenges to agriculture and role of the RDP

Rural community in West CorkIn recent years the role of agriculture in relation to climate change has come increasingly under the spotlight and this is reflected in the funding programs and priorities under the Rural Development Program (RDP).
Compared to our European partners and the USA, agriculture plays a larger role in the Irish economy and thus the contribution to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from agriculture in Ireland appears to be relatively higher than the rest of Europe. This is both a legacy of our past low industrialisation, with an absence of heavy industry, and our temperate climate and fertile soils which facilitate lush grass growth.
Climate change is likely to have a negative impact on agriculture with increases in extreme weather events predicted. On the other hand, a growing world population, increased prosperity and the development of new technologies present major opportunities for the Irish Agri-Food Industry.
Ireland, in cooperation with our EU partners has committed itself to limiting and reducing GHG emissions from all sectors including agriculture. While it is currently projected that Ireland will cumulatively achieve its reduction targets set for 2020, it is anticipated that more stringent targets for 2030 and beyond will be agreed under negotiations currently in train. In this scenario, emissions from agriculture will, at best, be required to be maintained at current levels.
Ireland is currently working on the development of a mitigation plan for all sectors through which the most practical and cost effective methods of reducing GHGs will be developed. The current absolute reduction measurements do not allow Ireland to take full advantage of mitigation measures such as soil and grass management and afforestation.
Measures within the RDP are therefore focussed on reducing GHG emissions from agriculture. These measures include the following schemes:
A.         GLAS Scheme
B.         The Beef Data Genomics Programme
C.        Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme II
D.        Organic Farming Scheme
E.         Knowledge Transfer Scheme

Minister Creed Launches €100M Knowledge Transfer Group Scheme

Knowledge Transfer Programme

Minister Michael Creed TD, Department of Agriculture, Food and the MarineThe Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, last month launched the €100m Knowledge Transfer Groups Scheme.  The Scheme is co-funded by the National Exchequer and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development as part of Ireland’s €4bn Rural Development Programme, 2014-2020.
Knowledge Transfer Groups will be implemented for some 27,000 farmers across 6 sectors – Beef, Sheep, Dairy, Tillage, Equine and Poultry.  These groups will provide a key support to the agri-food sector in building its knowledge and skills base to underpin continued growth and competitiveness. Minister Creed outlined “the scheme builds significantly on the previous Discussion Group model and is designed in such a way as to ensure the farmer and advisor engage in one to one discussion on key aspects of a farmer’s business such as controlling input costs, environmental sustainability, breeding and herd health. This one to one engagement will be complemented by group based discussion and the sharing of experience and information between farmers.”
Knowledge Transfer Groups will run for a period of three years, and form part of an integrated package of supports to be delivered under the Rural Development Programme.
Minister Creed added “the Government’s continued support for the range of measures contained in the Rural Development Programme underline its commitment to facilitate farmers in addressing sustainability, productivity and competitiveness challenges.  Helping farmers pursue best practice can only help to serve continued efforts in protecting and improving farmer’s incomes.”
Another significant benefit of the scheme the Minister has noted is the socialisation element of the scheme.  Minister Creed continued “rural isolation has long been a factor in contributing to mental health issues amongst farmers.  Schemes such as this which encourage interaction on an on-going basis are a useful tool in the battle against this significant problem.”
Knowledge Transfer Groups will be delivered to farmers by qualified facilitators, with the first Groups expected to be approved in June.  To support the roll out of the Scheme, the Department held a number of information sessions for farmers and facilitators over the past month.

IT Sligo Plays Key Role In European Boost for High Nature Value Farmland

Innovative solutions for supporting high nature value areas

Cows in a fieldOne of IT Sligo’s main research centres is playing a central role in the establishment of a new knowledge and best practice network which aims to boost innovation in agricultural areas across Europe renowned for their outstanding natural and cultural values.
The Centre for Environmental Research, Innovation and Sustainability (CERIS) at IT Sligo and the Burrenbeo Trust in County Clare are launching an international project dealing with High Nature Value Farming, known as HNV Link.
High nature value farmland defines areas across the continent where agricultural activities support, and are associated, with exceptionally high biodiversity. The project is supported by the Horizon 2020 EU Research Programme to the tune of €2.2 million. The project will operate across 11 countries: Ireland, the UK, Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Finland and Sweden. The goal is to increase the socio-economic viability and environmental efficiency of these areas, some of which are currently threatened by marginalisation.
More than 70% of habitats of European importance in Ireland are impacted by agricultural practices with many of the negative effects relating to the lack of management or land use change. “Marrying science with local innovations and skill is vital in the quest to safeguard the future of these unique areas across Europe,” explains Dr James Moran, the project leader at IT Sligo. “Their uniqueness demands a holistic approach to their management and to take into account local environment and socio-economic conditions.”
The project will focus on collecting, developing, transferring and sharing innovative solutions of all kinds for supporting high nature value areas. The Burren in County Clare, recognised internationally as one of the flagship farming landscapes, will be one of ten European learning areas for the project. “The Burren is the ideal learning area for this project given its high heritage value, its long history of farming, and the many pioneering conservation initiatives introduced here,” says Brendan Dunford, Secretary of the Burrenbeo Trust. The goal is to expand the network across the country as high nature value characteristics apply to almost one third of Ireland’s agricultural landbase.
For further information please contact:
Dr James Moran, Centre for Environmental Research Innovation and Sustainability, Institute of Technology Sligo. Email: Tel: 071 9305619.

Strong Cattle Prices Boost Farm Income in 2015

Teagasc National farm Survey findings

Cows in a fieldA preliminary estimate of the Teagasc National Farm Survey results show that family farm income increased by 6% in 2015, bringing the average income figure for the farming sector to €26,526.
Speaking at the launch of the results Dr. Thia Hennessy, Head of the Teagasc National Farm Survey, said: “Despite the considerable fall in milk price, increased milk production, combined with higher cattle prices, good weather conditions, reduced input expenditure due to lower fuel and animal feed prices, resulted in a 6 percent increase in average farm income in 2015”. Cattle prices increased considerably in 2015, contributing to an increase in farm income in the order of 29 to 34%. However, average incomes on cattle rearing farms in 2015 were still quite low at just €12,904.
Over €800 million was invested by farmers in their businesses in 2015, over €300 million of which was invested on dairy farms. Somewhat surprisingly, almost two-thirds of farms have no business related debt, with many choosing to fund new investment from working capital. On the remaining one-third of farms the average debt level is €60,607, or 1.47 times the income level.
Farming continues to remain highly reliant on direct payments. The average direct payment per farm was €17,000 comprising 64 percent of farm income in general and almost 100 percent of income on cattle and sheep farms. The farming population in Ireland includes a considerable number of part-time farms with almost one in three farmers working elsewhere off the farm. Just over half of all farm households have an off-farm income source.
The report is available to download here .

Best Practice

Shannon Arts Development

Participants at Shannon Arts Development workshop
The project’s development area, Shannon Town, County Clare and its rural hinterland, has a population of approximately 10,000 persons. The project’s aim was to develop community capacity through culture and the arts, as well as enhance opportunities for the creative sector to act as an economic driver in the locality. The project targeted locally-based creative and cultural workers to deliver training programmes, which are provided to local enterprises that include traditional enterprise owners as well as those involving the creative/cultural sector. To date, training has been provided by cultural workers and artists to approximately 30 enterprises in areas such as community capacity-building, entrepreneurship in the arts and creative sectors, community arts facilitation, and community heritage auditing. A second aim of the project has been to develop a multifunctional civic, community and arts centre for Shannon. Shannon is home to over 30 creative, civic and community groups currently operating in a highly fragmented way across a range of (often unsuitable) venues. The lack of a central venue has meant that the creative energy and initiative that emerges from such groups is not being synergised in ways that would deliver greater momentum and innovative capacities in a local development sense. Through the project, an empty unit in the local shopping centre has been provided free of charge and is being fitted out by a local artist who specialises in working with recycled materials.


Check out additional Arts and Culture Project around Europe here.

For more case studies visit

Forthcoming Events

Extension of Completion Date for Wild Bird Cover for GLAS - 14th June
The deadline for sowing Wild Bird Cover in GLAS 1 and 2 has been extended until 14th June 2016.

Innovation in Agriculture Conference - 19th-23rd June 2016
Innovation support for a diverse agriculture – EUFRAS/IALB conference
Location: University of Limerick

Funding Workshop for Rural Youth Programmes – 22nd June, 11.00-15.00
Erasmus+ for Rural Youth Work
Location: Eiscir Rida Community Centre, Tullamore, Co. Offaly

Rivers Trust Workshop - 1 July, 09:30-16:00
The Role & Formation of River Trusts in Ireland
Location: Killyleagh Community Centre, Killyleagh, County Down

SAVE THE DATE: NRN Annual Conference - 14 October 2016, Croke Park

For more events visit
Members of the NRN Team

Meet the NRN Team

The National Rural Network (NRN) Consortium Coordination Group (from left to right): Michael Kenny, Seamus Boland (Project Director), James Claffey, Billy Murphy, Deirdre Garvey, Philip Farrelly and Maria Pettit and (not pictured) Dr. Maura Farrell, Johnny Sheehan & Maria O’Gorman. For more information visit

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