Newsletter of the Irish Rural Network - March 2016
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Connecting Communities

growing our future 

March 2016

Welcome to the first monthly newsletter of Ireland's National Rural Network (NRN) 2016-2020. The goal of the NRN is to inform the broader public and potential beneficiaries on rural development policy and funding opportunities. In this, our first issue, we introduce the NRN's key areas of focus. For more see
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New consortium appointed to deliver National Rural Network 2016-2020

A message from Seamus Boland, Project Director

As Project Director I am delighted to announce that Irish Rural Link in partnership with The Wheel, NUI Galway and Philip Farrelly and Co (Agricultural Consultants) has been awarded the contract for the delivery of the National Rural Network. The consortium structure focuses the strengths of each individual member and applies the collective capability, experience and expertise towards excellence in service delivery and continual improvement, sharing and learning amongst team members. Each of the consortium members has operated successfully for many years in representing rural communities, the interests of disadvantaged and marginalised areas, advocating appropriate policies and disseminating best practise through grass-roots initiatives. The ambition of the new consortium is to maximize the impact of the RDP by bringing it into the lives of as many people and communities as possible. We aim to transform levels of engagement with the programme, and by building participation in its implementation, and a sense of ownership of the programme amongst stakeholders, to maximise the positive impact in the lives of people and communities across rural Ireland.

The new National Rural Network has launched its website ( this week and it will act as the central portal of information for all stakeholders. The NRN has prioritised the identification of stakeholders in the implementation stage and look forward to connecting with all stakeholders in the next few weeks. 

Kind regards,

Seamus Boland
Project Coordinator
National Rural Network 

What is the Rural Development Programme?

The Rural Development Programme (RDP) is part of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a common set of objectives, principles and rules through which the European Union (EU) co-ordinates support for European agriculture. The CAP framework is comprised of two complementary pillars; Pillar 1 deals with direct payments to farmers and market measures while Pillar 2 covers multi-annual rural development measures which include those that are beneficial for the environment and climate change. The Rural Development Programme 2014 – 2020 as a whole includes a range of both on and off farm support measures to support the sustainable development of rural Ireland. The programme is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. The Department of Environment, Community and Local Government administers the LEADER element of the Programme which aims to improve the quality of life in rural areas and to encourage diversification of economic activity in rural areas. It seeks to bring about positive change helping to support and sustain rural areas for the better.

Programme funding
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) is the Managing Authority for Ireland’s RDP. The Programme is co-funded by the EU’s European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the national exchequer. EU support for the RDP via the EAFRD will average €313 million annually or an aggregate sum of €2.19 billion over the 7-year Programme lifespan. This EU funding will be supplemented by exchequer funding. The total funding for RDP measures incorporating national and EU funds is set out in table below. 
 Measure € millions
 Measure 1 - Knowledge transfer and information actions 126
 Measure 2 - Advisory services, farm management and farm relief services 8
 Measure 4 - Investments in physical assets 425
 Measure 7 - Basic services and village renewal in rural areas 6
 Measure 10 - Agri-environment-climate 1585
 Measure 11 - Organic farming 56
 Measure 13 - Payments to areas facing natural or other specific constraints 1370
 Measure 16 - Co-operation 7
 Measure 19 - Support for LEADER local development 250
 Technical Assistance 6

See for more information.

NRN Governing Themes 

The National Rural Network will be focusing on specific themed areas over the coming five years. The first five themes will be as follows:

1. Knowledge Transfer 
'Peer to peer'  learning through knowledge transfer groups has been proven to be a cost effective and successful method of bringing about real change in farm practice,to the benefit of both the environment and the individual farmers. The NRN will engage with both farmers and advisers to promote maximum up take and optimum results through the adoption of best practice.

2. Agri-environment & Climate Change
The Role of Agriculture in relation to climate change has assumed a position of central importance in recent years. This is reflected in the funding programs under the Rural Development Program (RDP).

Compared to our European partners agriculture plays a larger role in our economy. Ireland possesses none of the heavy industries coal, steel and heavy manufacturing from which our European neighbours benefit. This absence of heavy industry means that agriculture's contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions is disproportionately high relative to the rest of Europe. In addition our temperate climate and high soil fertility makes our farmed areas extremely suitable for livestock production. Livestock production forms the basis of the Dairy, Beef, Sheep, Pig and Equine industries. These individual sectors operate at a standard of efficiency and productivity comparable with the best in class on a world basis. From a climate change point of view however, ruminant animals produce methane, and methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas. 

Ireland, as part of the world community and more particularly in cooperation with out European partners has committed itself to limiting and reducing GHG emissions. Currently it is projected that despite a rising emissions trajectory 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 context emissions from agriculture will, at best, be required to be maintained at current levels. A growing world population, increased prosperity and the development of new technologies present major opportunities for the Irish Agri-Food Industry. Measures within the RDP are therefore focused on reducing GHG emissions from agriculture.

Green Low Carbon Agri Environmental Schemes GLAS  
The GLAS Scheme has been designed to promote farming practises which overall will lead to a reduction in carbon emissions and an increase in bio-diversity on Irish farms.

Beef Genomics
The Beef Genomics scheme has the potential to substantially increase the output achievable by each animal while lowering the inputs consumed. Irish agricultural production is already highly carbon efficient with a lower carbon footprint than many of our international peers.

3. Bio Diversity & Organic Farming
The NRN aims to focus on Ireland’s environmental and biodiversity issues, in particular EU Protected Habitat and Species and the level and mapping of High Nature Value (HNV) lands in Ireland, starting with case studies and pilot projects currently investigated by DAFM. When identifying best practices, the NRN will pay rigorous attention to farming traditions in need of conservation and how relevant and easily accessible information can be disseminated using all stakeholders, including but not exclusively, advisory services. Drawing on The Water Framework Directive, The Groundwater Directive and the Nitrates Directive, the NRN will also identify and disseminate a series of Irish and European best practices to show the correlation between water quality, sensitive catchments and the biodiversity loss within these areas. Appropriate diffusion of such practices will attempt to create both behavioural and cultural changes at farm level; in particular in the adoption of new and appropriate practices that can tackle issues of biodiversity.

The NRN aims to provide capacity building and training events for Local Action Groups throughout the five-year period of the RDP 2014-2020. The Local Action Groups play a key role in the implementation of the RDP and as such will be given key consideration by the NRN. Training and capacity building will involve stakeholders; will aim to improve the quality of the RDP and will focus on fostering innovation. The NRN will carry out regular needs assessments to ascertain the type of training required by the LAG’s and the most appropriate method of training delivery. To endure this is achieved LAG’s will be encouraged to become active members of the NRN where they can participate in the selection process for prioritising key thematic areas of the RDP that impact them most.

5. Viability & Competitiveness of the Farming Community
The NRN will highlight the challenges and present best and smart practice models that can support the farming community to remain viable and competitive. Areas such as succession and inheritance; women in farming and rural business and organic farming will be given priority from the outset, although additional matters of concern, identified within the RDP and arising in the course of this networking phase will also be given consideration.

See for more information.

What is LEADER?

The LEADER Initiative (Liaisons entre actions de developpement de l’économie rurale - links between actions of rural development) was established by the European Commission in 1991 and is a method of mobilising and delivering rural development in local rural communities. LEADER uses a ‘bottom-up’ or community led local development approach to rural development. Through the framework of local development strategies with all funding decisions being made at a local level by Local Action Groups (LAG), LEADER can and does make a real difference to the daily lives of people in rural areas.

How much is available? 
There is an overall programme complement of €250 million for the 2014-2020 period which is made up of €235 million in respect of the main element of LEADER coupled with €15 million for two Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine artisan food schemes.

Which projects will be eligible? 
To facilitate a more effective targeting of resources, the RDP outlines a series of themes that were identified as overarching needs in rural Ireland, through consultation and research. These themes respond to key challenges facing rural Ireland, with regard to economic recovery, employment creation, tackling social exclusion and reducing the impact of global warming and resource depletion. The table below outlines the themes and sub-themes:

It should be noted that LEADER is delivered through the medium of Local Development Strategies and that project funding will depend on the individual needs and objectives identified in the area’s approved Local Development Strategy.

See for more information.

Best Practice

Kilbeggan Organic Foods

Organic oats have been grown at Ballard Organic Farm for several years and because the crop was of such a high standard, it was decided to develop the grain into products which could be marketed under the brand, Kilbeggan Organic Foods. Pat Lalor’s decision, in 1999, to move from conventional to organic farming was a pragmatic one – “to try and make some more money,” he admits.

 “But I suppose since then I’ve come to enjoy the organic way of farming. When I was a conventional farmer, I was a scientific farmer. Now, I’m a biological farmer. My job is to nurture the soil, look after it, get it into the best possible state of health, so it will grow crops that are disease free.” The crucial difference is that, with conventional farming, if you encounter problems there is always a quick fix, a prescription. With organic farming, the plan is to avoid having problems, because there are no quick fixes. 

In 2011 Pat Lalor set about producing, packaging and marketing his own consumer ready organic porridge. Two years on, his product is sold not only across Ireland, but also in markets as far away as New York, Singapore, Thailand and the Middle East.

Kilbeggan Organic Porridge Oats was awarded a Great Taste Award 2013. These awards attracted over 9,500 entries from Ireland and the UK and were blind-judged by a panel of food experts.


VIDEO: Pat Lalor (Kilbeggan Organic Foods) featured on RTÉ’s Ear to the Ground 
Ear to the Ground - Ballard Organic Farm

Forthcoming Events

LCDC Capacity Building Session - 15 March, Limerick (venue TBC)
The Department of Environment will be hosting a capacity building session for  representatives of the LCDC’s for Galway City, Galway County, Laois, Longford, Mayo, Offaly, Roscommon and Westmeath. The session will cover an overview of the new LCDC structures, Community Plans and an introduction to LEADER. 

For more events visit



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