The recommendations from the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC) to cut the size of the national suckler herd has been slammed by a leading figure in the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Angus Woods, the association’s national livestock chairperson, called the proposal “unacceptable, lazy and flawed”, and urged Michael Creed, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to reject the “discriminatory and nonsensical proposals”.

“Minister Creed is on record as saying there is no Government agenda to cut the suckler herd. The minister needs to make it clear that this report from the CCAC is not Government policy, and that he will not be supporting it,” argued Woods.

Woods quoted figures from a 2018 study by University College Cork (UCC) agri-economist Thia Hennessy, which found that a 50% reduction in the suckler herd would result in a €1.5 billion fall in national economic output, with 80% of this decrease occurring in western counties.

“It is totally wrong and unfair of the CCAC to try and push all of the weight of climate change on top of the suckler cow herd. The council ignores the hard work of suckler farmers in addressing climate change,” Woods said.

He went on to argue that suckler cow farmers were “leaders” in agriculture in terms of tackling climate change.

Woods also pointed to other data from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), which estimates a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions form sucker farms by 2030.

In marginal land areas, suckler and sheep farming are the only options because of land type. Suckler and sheep farming are essential to the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of rural areas.

“Contrary to the views of the CCAC, suckler and sheep farming are vital in terms of maintaining the environment, the biodiversity and preventing land abandonment,” Woods added.

He argued that a 14% drop in the suckler herd over the last decade had already left “some areas in real socio-economic problems”.

Woods concluded his remarks by saying: “Reducing the Irish suckler herd will result in an increase in global emissions through carbon leakage, as beef would be produced in countries with less sustainable systems.”