Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture Deputy Jackie Cahill has welcomed the government’s decision not to enforce a mandatory cut in the national herd as part of emissions reduction measures.

His comments come following an agreement on Thursday (July 28), by Cabinet on a 25% emissions cut by 2030 for the agricultural sector.

The Fianna Fáil TD expressed to his colleagues in the government that a reduction in the national herd would have a major impact on family farms across rural Ireland and said “it simply wasn’t an option”.

“I will continue to champion policies that are both economically and environmentally sustainable for rural Ireland. It should not have to be one or the other,” Deputy Cahill said.

“I have staunchly defended the agri-food industry, farmers and the family farm model in relation to the debate on emissions reduction targets, and I make absolutely no apologies for this,” he added.

However, the deputy acknowledged that achieving a 25% reduction in emissions relative to 2018’s levels will not be easily achieved but said he is confident the necessary investments and supports for the sector will come from the government.

“I spoke with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and I am confident that the budget will have the provision needed for investment in this infrastructure.

“It is now time that we start working on what agriculture can do to reduce emissions, and stop telling farmers what we can’t do.”

He also commended farmers for their eagerness to play a part in reaching the country’s climate goals.

“Farmers are willing to adapt. It is time to stop demonising the sector and make the necessary investments to reach these targets.

He referred to a number of the measures government outlined in their announcement, which include the development of anaerobic digesters and solar PV, and said that farmers can play a central role in these.

“[These] will be essential in reducing our country’s dependency on fossil fuels. Whether it’s through the production of biogases on farms, or the harvesting of solar energy, farmers will play a considerable role.”

However, he said it is most important that farmers are recognised for the work they do and that the credit does not go unfairly, to the energy sector.

“Action is now needed to see the necessary investment being made possible to support family farms and the agri-food industry, which is the backbone of the rural economy,” Cahill concluded.