Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has indicated in the strongest possible terms, that Ireland’s national herd will not be cut in the wake of whatever final legislation is contained within Ireland’s Climate Action Bill.

In a comprehensive sit-down interview with Agriland this week, the minister said that the plan has always been to work on the basis that livestock numbers will remain static.

He believes that a combination of improved efficiency levels at farm level, in tandem with new technologies, will allow production agriculture to reduce its carbon footprint over the coming years.

Agriculture and emissions

However the minister also made it very clear that agriculture must play its part in meeting the national climate action targets, when it comes to securing significant greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement levels.

He said: “The Ag Climatise roadmap provides the context for the climate change actions proposed by the agriculture and land use sectors.

“These actions demonstrate the sector’s commitment and ambition to reducing [GHG] emissions as well as providing a significant contribution to the decarbonisation of other key sectors of the economy, including energy.”

Significantly, the minister cited the use of new feed additives as one of the evolving options that will allow Irish farmers to reduce GHG emission levels within their businesses.

Climate bill

Minister McConalogue refuted suggestions that the discussions on the Climate Action Bill should be put on hold until carbon sequestration levels on Irish farms had been fully determined.

He told Agriland: “This is not a case of putting the cart before the horse. The implementation of climate legislation will put in place a clear framework, allowing agriculture to respond constructively to the challenge of sustainability.”

The minister confirmed that Teagasc is working to accurately identify accurate carbon sequestration levels on Irish farms, adding that this work will be carried out as quickly and effectively as possible.

Carbon credits in the climate bill

McConalogue expressed the view that Irish farmers should be allowed to independently trade carbon credits, based on the proven levels of sequestration taking place within their own businesses.

He said Ireland needs to seek to monetise the action taken by farmers which results in carbon capture and reward them accordingly.

But the minister was also keen to point out that producing food will remain an absolute priority for Irish agriculture.

He said: “The world will need ever increasing amounts of food over the coming years. And Ireland is perfectly placed to help meet this requirement.

“Retaining our capacity to produce food in the most sustainable way possible, remains a priority for the Irish government.

“Given this backdrop, it has always been part of the national plan to ensure that livestock numbers were retained at current levels.”

Sustainability in agriculture

When asked to define what delivering improved sustainability would actually mean at farm level over the coming years, the minister said: “We already have inherently sustainable structures in place. This is due to the fact that many thousands of farming families remain at the very heart of Irish agriculture. It’s a case of building on all of this for the future.

“This climate bill is the platform that can allow Ireland to provide strategic leadership on climate change matters.

“Farmers and the land use sector are already contributing to the national effort to address the climate challenge. Irish farmers have shown leadership in this area and I am confident that they will continue to do so,” the minister said.

Click on the link below to read more from Agriland’s interview with Minister Charlie McConalogue.