Food Dairy Vision Group (FDVG) chairman, Prof. Gerry Boyle believes that a proposal to reduce fertiliser nitrogen (N) levels by 35% will get farming halfway towards its climate change targets, where greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are concerned.

Speaking on RTE, Boyle said that it was a transformative proposal.

“At this stage we are talking about an interim report, the final version of which will go to the farm minister during May,” he said.

“The fertiliser nitrogen proposal would take effect from 2025. It will have implications for both climate change, biodiversity and water quality.

“It’s the equivalent of decarbonisation for other sectors in society, as far as agriculture is concerned.”

Food Vision Dairy Group retirement scheme

According to Prof. Boyle, the proposed FDVG retirement scheme is another critical issue.

“Clearly if government were to be expected to fund such a scheme, there would have to be a climate change impact.

“The land owned by the retiring farmers could not be used for milk production or the maintenance of breeding animals that produce methane.

“This would be a significant restriction. So if a farmer wished to stay in farming, he could use the land to grow trees or to look at some form or organic enterprise,” Boyle added.

The FDVG chairman also confirmed that farmers coming out of milk production could also use their land to fatten cattle.

“In terms of funding for the retirement scheme, this would be up to the farm minister and, eventually, members of cabinet. The FDVG group has not come up with a figure, where this matter is concerned,” Boyle explained.

Boyle on FVDG proposals

Prof. Boyle went on to suggest that a lot of further work will be required to fine tune the FDVG proposals.

“Significant funding will be required for the pension scheme. Any take-up of the proposed pension scheme would serve to reduce methane emissions,” he said.

“Targeting a 10 to 20% reduction in dairy animal numbers would be significant. But this is not an ordinary retirement scheme, where the aim would be to create generational renewal.

“In such circumstance, there would be no restriction on what could be done with the land. So there might not be the same take-up for the proposed retirement scheme, as would have been the case in the past.

“Agriculture, across the board has to reduce emission levels by between four and five mega tonnes by 2030.

“The fertiliser proposal alone could reduce emission levels by around 2 mega tonnes. This is a very significant proposal,” Boyle said.

“Farmers will, obviously, be concerned about its implications on their incomes and the ability they will have to produce feed for their animals.”