Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, is to bring a strategic plan for farming before the cabinet, on a plan to boost farm incomes over the next three years.

The Agriculture, Food and the Marine Action Plan 2021 – Strategic Priorities and Initiatives policy document includes various goals to support farm incomes, tackle climate challenges and boost the rural and Irish economy.

The five goals outlined in the Statement of Strategy cover key areas:

  1. To promote and safeguard public, animal and plant health and animal welfare for the benefit of consumers, producers, the economy and wider society;
  2. Provide income and targeted supports to farmers and others in the agri-food sector to underpin the rural economy and optimise environmental sustainability;
  3. Provide the optimum policy framework for the sustainable development of the agri-food sector;
  4. Deliver a sustainable competitive and innovative seafood sector, driven by a skilled workforce, delivering value added products in line with consumer demand;
  5. Maintain and develop strategic, operational, regulatory and technical capacity and capability to deliver excellent services to customers.

Strategic plan for farming – priorities

Minister McConalogue has said: “The key priority for me as minister, is the protection of incomes and the enhancement of our sector.

“Policy development in the coming years will take place against the background of Covid-19 and Brexit impacts, new common agricultural and fisheries policies, increased climate and environmental ambition and the emergence of transformative digital and other technologies.

“The important policy work of the department [DAFM] on these and other issues will be shaped by the commitments set out in the Programme for Government.

“The department is guiding the sector’s contribution by providing a policy platform that protects incomes, ensures that our food offering is safe and of the highest quality and that our industry is efficient and competitive,” he added.

Achievable goals?

Among the goals is a plan to develop and support the tillage sector by engaging with stakeholders on the development of alternative crops, including protein and hemp.

For those in the agri-food sector, the strategy plans to deliver the on-farm Biodiversity study and roll-out the farm soil sampling programme.

There is also a goal to develop a ‘strategic roadmap’ to improve nature within the agricultural sector.

The department hopes to also explore and develop potential opportunities for farmers from anaerobic digestion.

While many of the goals included in the Statement of Strategy are already underway, the upcoming negotiations on Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will also have a role to play.