ASSAP Interim Review

19 September 2022

On this episode of the Signpost Webinar Series, which took place on Friday, 16 September, Mark Gibson, Head of Teagasc Outreach & Innovation Department was joined by Noel Meehan, ASSAP Manager, Teagasc and Joe Crockett, Dairy Sustainability Ireland to discuss the ASSAP interim review.

A questions and answers session took place at the end of the webinar which was facilitated by Pat Murphy, Head of Environment KT, Teagasc.


Booklet of Measures

IRD Duhallow are a rural development company serving the Duhallow region of North West Cork, Mid-Cork and South East Kerry.

This booklet was produced by the IRD Duhallow Blue Dot team to raise awareness of the importance of measures implemented by the Duhallow Farming for Blue Dot Catchments EIP and the Owentaraglin River EIP project.

Donegal County Council’s Water & Environment Directorate seeks tenders for the services of Farm Inspectors to carry out a programme of farm inspections

A contract will be awarded for the out-sourcing of a series of Farm Inspections in various “At Risk” catchments in Co. Donegal.

The specification may include carrying out of Integrated Catchment Management (ICM) and Investigative Assessment in certain agricultural catchments, as required.

The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage has allocated some short-term funding to local authorities to increase efforts to deal with several water quality pressures in high risk water bodies, the largest of which is agriculture, under the 2nd River Basin Management Plan and continuing into the 3rd cycle plan yet to be published.

As a first step, an increased programme of agricultural inspections will be compiled and commenced in these water bodies in the coming months. The resources for this work will be drawn from the private sector and this contract is for the engagement of suitably qualified contract staff to carry out the required inspections in various catchments within Donegal County Council’s functional area.

These inspections will focus primarily on farmyards and compliance with the Good Agricultural Practice Regulations, eg – slurry storage, silage pits, manure pits/dungsteads, minimisation of soiled water, drains and adjacent water-courses, including cattle access and farm roadways.

Initial planning, selection of sites and follow-up actions, including enforcement will be carried out by local authority staff. The Council will draw up a weekly programme of inspections in a small number of “at risk” catchments and these will be completed by the contract staff using a pre-set inspection template and recorded in electronic format. Farms to be inspected will include the full range of farm types, including, dairy, sheep and mixed farms.

Commonage / Non Commanage Uplands – Management Plans (Wicklow)–events/daily/sheep/suas-sustainable-uplands-agri-environment-scheme.php

Total of seven commonages and three non-commonage upland farmers are currently participating in SUAS

Powercourt Paddock (non commonage)

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Ovoca-Vartry catchment (10) and includes two sub-catchments – the Dargle Sub Catchment (Dargle_SC_010) and the Vartry Sub Catchment (Vartry_SC_010)

Glassavullaun Commonage

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Liffey and Dublin Bay catchment (09) and the Dodder Sub-catchment (SC010).

Ballynultagh (non commonage)

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Liffey and Dublin Bay catchment (09) and the Liffey Sub-catchment (SC010).

Kilmashogue Upland Farm (non commonage)

Corrasillagh Commonage

Slievemweel Commonage

The Slievemweel Stream, which is a tributary of the Coolballintaggart Stream rises within the commonage on the northern boundary of the commonage adjoining a forestry plantation. This stream flows south eastwards to join the Coolballintaggart Stream. The Askanagap Stream rises on the south-western side of the commonage. The Coolballintaggart Stream joins the Askanagap Stream (which is a tributary of the Derry Water) to the south east of the commonage. This tributary of the
Derry Water River then joins the main channel of the Derry Water, which flows north easterly towards Aughrim Village.

Carrigeenduff Commonage

A number of watercourses rise within the commonage on the ridge between Duff Hill and Mullaghcleevaun East Top. These are from north to south – Lavarnia Brook, two tributaries of the Cornagrainya Brook and Cywock Brook. These watercourses are all tributaries of the Inchavore River, which flows into Lough Dan. The Inchavore Brook and Duff Brook rise on the slopes of
Kanturk Mountain and also flow into Lough Dan.

Granamore Commonage

Ballybeg Commonage

The commonage is located within the Eastern River Basin District within the Ovoca-Vartry catchment (10) and the DerryWater Sub Catchment (10). A tributary of the Ballycumber South Stream (IE_EA_10D020600 Ballycumber South) rises within the
commonage on the north-western boundary of the commonage adjoining a forestry plantation and flows north eastwards to join a tributary of the Derry Water, which is then joined by the Askanagap Stream, upstream of Ballinglen Bridge. This tributary of the Derry Water River then joins the main channel of the Derry Water, which flows north easterly towards Aughrim Village.


The Glasnamullen Stream (also known locally as Barrack River) rises within the site almost bisecting the commonage and a smaller watercourse (known locally as the Ballinastoe Stream) is found along the southern boundary of the commonage where it adjoins the Ballinastoe Woods, which are owned by Coillte. Both of these watercourses are tributaries of the Vartry River, which feeds the Vartry Reservoir and as such form part of the drinking water supply for North County Wicklow and Dublin.

LESS Data by County, by Year: grant uptake for LESS equipment across LESS, OCIS & YFCIS


Download file in Excel:

Notes: as per PQ

Under the Ag Climatise Strategy, the targets regarding Low Emission Slurry Spreading (LESS) include achieving a target of 60% of all slurry spread by LESS by 2022, 80% by 2025 and 90% by 2027. This action will make a significant contribution towards meeting our ammonia reduction targets.

The current Nitrates Action Programme provides for compulsory usage of LESS equipment for all farmers operating above 170 kg N/ha. In order to meet our ammonia and Ag Climatise targets, further compulsory implementation of LESS for more farmers is required and under the draft 5th Nitrates Action Programme there is a phased approach proposed for the introduction of LESS for less intensive farmers as follows:

(a) Low emission slurry spreading equipment must be used for the application of slurry on holdings with stocking rates of :

i. 170 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding. 

ii. 150 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding from 1st January 2023. 

iii. 130 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding from 1st January 2024.  

iv. 100 kg nitrogen per hectare from grazing livestock manure or above prior to export of livestock manure from the holding from 1st January 2025. 

v. slurry produced by pigs on any holding from 1st January 2023.

From 1st January 2023, low emission equipment shall be used to apply livestock manure to arable land or the livestock manure shall be incorporated within 24 hours.

An indicative budget of €395m was made available for TAMS II under the current RDP (2014-2020). The allocation for all the TAMS schemes including the Low Emission Slurry Spreading equipment for the transitional period to the end of 2022 is now €507.77m plus €96m under the European Recovery Instrument (EURI) for 2021 to 2023.

Under Article 17 of European Parliament and Council Regulation (EU) No. 1305/2013, grant aid can be provided for investments for a maximum of 12 months after the imposition of new mandatory requirements. This applies to all TAMS II schemes. TAMS schemes will continue to be grant aided under the Rural Development Programme until the end of 2025.

Examining the relationship between farmer participation in an agri-environment scheme and the quantity and quality of semi-natural habitats on Irish farms

Agri-environment schemes (AESs) have been developed by governments to improve biodiversity, reduce pollution from farming and encourage the provision of agriculture’s non-market benefits. Despite the substantial amount of money spent on designing, implementing and monitoring AESs, their environmental effectiveness is ambiguous. The objective of this paper is to investigate the relationship between farmer participation in an AES and the quantity and quality of semi-natural habitats found on farms. This study combines socio-economic survey data from Irish farms in 2012 with farmland habitat data collected in 2015–16 from a subset of participating farms in the original 2012 socio-economic survey. Given the voluntary nature of AESs, a matching technique is applied to control for self-selection bias and test whether farmer participation in an AES is related to the quantity and quality of habitats found on Irish farms. Although farmer participation in an AES is found to be positively related to habitat quantity and quality, we are unable to reject the null hypothesis of no statistically significant differences between habitat quantity and quality of participants in an AES and non-participants. However, results highlight that the share of habitat area (proxy variable for habitat quantity) varies significantly across farm households with different socio-economic characteristics, soil type, farm structures and location. Future policies could scale up the implementation of outcome-based payments or market-based instruments to incentivize farmers in improving their environmental performance. However, such policy improvements would still require the development of robust and transparent monitoring mechanisms.


Agricultural expansion and intensification has been associated with reductions in semi-natural grasslands and other habitats, and a decline in farmland biodiversity across north-west Europe and north America (Cerezo et al., 2011). Agri-environment schemes (AESs) and market-based instruments (e.g. taxes, subsidies and tradable permits, auctions) have been developed to incentivize environmentally positive practices on farmland. The majority of recent AESs in most European countries aim to reduce biodiversity loss and achieve other environmental goals (e.g. water pollution reduction and soil protection), by compensating farmers for income loss related to certain management actions that farmers perform to mitigate environmental externalities associated with intensive agricultural practices (Batáry et al., 2015).2 Nevertheless, the ecological impact of some AESs on biodiversity conservation is widely debated in the empirical literature (Arnott et al., 2019). In light of the concerns about the effectiveness of AESs to protect biodiversity, this paper aims to assess the environmental effectiveness of AESs by combining farmland habitat data with socio-economic survey data from Irish farms.

The Republic of Ireland (hereafter referred to as Ireland), is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, the Irish Sea, and the Celtic Sea (Fig A.1-Appendix A), hosts exceptional ecosystems that support a rich and diverse fauna and flora (EPA, 2020). In response to the European Union’s Agri-environment Regulation 2078/92/EEC, the Irish Government introduced a voluntary action-oriented AES, the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) in June 1994. REPS operated over four iterations (REPS I to REPS IV) (Finn, Ó hUallacháin, 2012). The Agri-Environment Options Scheme (AEOS) replaced REPS in 2010, followed by the Green Low-Carbon Scheme (GLAS) in 2015.

Since its inception in 1994, there has been strong demand for evidence of the environmental effectiveness of Ireland’s AESs, which have paid farmers over €3 billion up to 2010 (Finn, Ó hUallacháin, 2012). Owing to difficulties in isolating and quantifying outcomes from AESs, the lack of reliable baseline data to compare change over time, along with the complex non-linear dynamics of ecosystem features at various spatial and temporal scales, the evaluation of AESs in Ireland and other countries remains challenging. By also taking into account the potential self-selection bias induced by the voluntary (non-random) participatory nature of AESs and the criteria used in the selection procedure, the evaluation of AESs becomes extremely challenging as AESs results may substantially differ between participating and non-participating farms.

The voluntary nature of AESs makes self-selection into a scheme one of the key factors determining its environmental benefits and cost-effectiveness. AESs are expected to be more attractive for farmers who do not have to significantly change their management practices to qualify for scheme participation, than those farmers who incur a significant cost associated with participation (Kelsey and Seema, 2019). Researchers, designers and funders of AESs have long worried that environmental subsidies flow to landholders who would have adopted conservation practices even without participation in an AES, undermining the additionality and cost-effectiveness of AESs. Hence, ex-post scheme evaluations that do not control for self-selection, may produce biased estimates.

A central question in this paper is: Does quantity and quality of on-farm habitats differ between farms participating in an AES and non-participating farms? The relationship between the ecological status of habitats and participation in AESs accounting for self-selection bias has been analyzed by only a few studies. This study aims to contribute to the AES evaluation literature by combining socio-economic with farm habitat data and employing a quasi-experimental method that accounts for self-selection bias (inverse probability weighting estimator with regression adjustment) to compare the quantity and quality of habitats across farms participating in an AES and non-participating farms.

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 provides background information related to Ireland’s AESs. A brief review of the literature follows in Section 3, while Section 4 refers to the datasets used in this study. Section 5 introduces the conceptual framework and the econometric approach undertaken for data analysis. Results and limitations of the study are presented and discussed in Section 6. Finally, Section 7 provides some concluding observations and policy implications.

Section snippets

Ireland’s agri-environment schemes (AESs)

REPS was the first national AES in Ireland. The objectives of REPS were applied at farm level through 11 measures. REPS paid farmers for undertaking measures on a per hectare basis, with the subsequent iterations of REPS having differing rates of graduated payments. The highest payments were for the first 20 ha, with different rates of declining payments for additional hectares across different iterations of the scheme. This hectare-based variation in payment rates rendered farm size a strong

Literature review

As scheme effectiveness may depend on sufficient farmer participation levels (along with other factors), researchers have been interested in identifying the drivers of farmer participation in an AES, by using either data on observed farmer behavior (e.g. Wąs et al., 2021; Wilson and Hart, 2000) or conducting choice experiments (e.g. Espinosa-Goded et al., 2010; McGurk et al., 2020) and meta-analyses (e.g. Lastra-Bravo et al., 2015). As shown in many studies, there is substantial heterogeneity

Socio-economic survey

In late 2012, a questionnaire-based survey of 1000 Irish farms was conducted to gather information on variables including farmers’ decisions to participate in AESs, farmer socio-demographic profile, farm location and structural characteristics of farms (e.g. farm size, number of livestock units). The timing of the survey coincided with the conclusion of the AEOS scheme at a period of maximum occupancy in schemes, which had been in existence for a number of iterations, and before the launch of a

Conceptual framework

In a randomized experimental setting where participation in an AES would be randomly assigned to farmers, the effect of participation on habitat quantity or quality, would be assessed by calculating the difference Δ in outcome variables (habitat quantity, habitat quality) at time t between what is empirically observable after participation (treatment) and what one would have observed in the same period and for the same farmers, in the case of non-participation. However, calculating Δ is not

Descriptive statistics

Table 2 presents descriptive statistics for the full sample of farmers, plus descriptive statistics of the variables classified by participation status. These indicate that the share of semi-natural habitats of ecological value in surveyed farms was approximately 18%. Table 2 also shows that 45% of farms have participated in REPS IV or AEOS in 2012. The average differences in the characteristics of participants and non-participants are also presented in Table 2. Statistical tests show that the

Conclusions and policy implications

The sustainable management of natural resources and the provision of public goods such as biodiversity, nature-based cultural values and climate stability are key deliverables for modern agricultural production systems. During 1990’s, following the 1992 McSharry reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), voluntary AESs became an important mechanism to safeguard a wide range of environmental and aesthetic functions in European farmed landscapes. Given the growth of AES investment, the

Declarations of interest

This work was supported by the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) (RSF15_S_619).

References (102)