The new Climate Action Plan has once again elevated organic farming over the livestock sector, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).
Climate Action Plan 2023 will provide the government with a framework to achieve the legally-binding carbon budgets and sectoral emissions reduction ceilings agreed in July.
The new strategy, published by the government this afternoon (Wednesday, December 21), will incentivise farmers to reduce livestock numbers on a voluntary basis from next year.
This will be achieved by supporting land use diversification options for farmers, including anaerobic digestion (AD), forestry and tillage.
It is among 15 actions that will be delivered through the plan in 2023 in a bid to cut emissions from the agriculture sector
Reacting to the new plan, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said that the government must itself transition from vague aspirations to fact and data-driven policy to manage the agri-food sector to lower emissions and increased sustainability.
He said that every attempt made by farmers to adapt has been bedevilled by the government’s inability or unwillingness to set out the real nature of the task.
He added that there is a complete denial of the scale and mechanics of the funding that would be required to help the agriculture sector meet emissions reductions targets.
McCormack pointed to the respective treatment of livestock farming and organics in the plan.
“We have a continuous stream of policy that keeps ‘doubling down’ on a relatively insignificant organics sector, while completely ignoring the livestock sector – most specifically the family dairy farm sector – without which it will be simply impossible to get the numbers and momentum required to make this transition work.
“We spend relative peanuts putting options in front of dairy and beef farmers while shovelling relatively vast sums at a tiny organics sector.
“The plan actually states the need to put ‘production diversification options for livestock farmers’ but then we see nothing and are offered nothing,” he said.
“This is the precise flaw that ICMSA keeps highlighting. If the government wants these changes, then it is up to it to identify the areas that require meaningful change and then fund those farmers who wish to make those changes. But that’s not what we get.
“What we get is vague aspiration or derisory funding in the really significant areas like dairy and beef livestock farming, while massive funding and concrete commitments are all directed at those areas like organics that are economically insignificant and where any change can only be marginal.
“This has been the problem all along and it’s still the problem as can be seen from today’s plan,” McCormack said.
The ICMSA president also called for clarity on who will be appointed to the proposed Just Transition Commission.
“If it’s going to be a majority of civil servants and a raft of so-called environmental activists then there’s absolutely no point in setting up a commission.
“We’ll just end up with this same problem where scare funding is aimed at the margins while the substance of these issue – the family farm system that has to be preserved – is either ignored completely or has ‘peanut’ sums directed at it that will leave it unable to make the very transition that the whole plan is ostensibly about effecting,” McCormack said.