Changes announced today (Thursday, March 11) by Bord Bia to Origin Green will have a direct impact on all aspects of primary food production in Ireland.

In essence, the new measures will put carbon emission targets on a mandatory footing for food and drink manufacturers.

Significantly, all emission streams interacting within a business will be included. This means that food processors will have to include the emissions’ record of all their farmer suppliers.

Both methane and nitrous oxide production levels reflect on the carbon footprint of all dairy, beef and sheep farming operations. Methane has a climate change impact 28 times that of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, nitrous oxide has a climate change impact 256 times that of carbon dioxide.

Assessing all emission streams both direct and indirect

For the purposes of the enhanced Origin Green measures, food companies will be expected to assess all the emission streams – direct and indirect – that interface with their businesses as accurately as possible.

One assumes this approach will put farmers in a similar position.

Bord Bia is highlighting the marketing benefits of food businesses committing to a decarbonising strategy. These include the building of resilience and increased competitiveness within a company.

Decarbonisation should also drive innovation within a company while, at the same time, improving its reputation. Such an approach should also allow businesses taking this approach to influence public policy.

Establishing a processors’ carbon footprint is the first stage in a multi-step process. It sets the backdrop for the establishment of a strategy that will allow the businesses concerned reach a net carbon zero position.

Irish farming will be impacted significantly

There is an upfront recognition within the new Bord Bia scheme that it will be almost impossible for any position to reach an absolute carbon zero position.

So, once all direct carbon reduction measures are in place, there will be scope for Origin Green-registered businesses to invest in both offsetting and insetting programmes.

Measures of this type that could be undertaken in Ireland include additional tree planting and bog regeneration.

That Irish farming will be impacted significantly by the changes envisaged by the Origin Green changes are obvious. In many ways, all of this could add up to a double-edged sword for farming.

Yes, cattle and sheep will add to the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from agriculture. However, activities such as tree and hedge planting will help to offset these production figures immensely.

And, of course , no one has yet quantified the absolutely tremendous potential of our soils as ‘living carbon sinks’.