‘Devil in the detail in new EPA report’ – ICMSA

There is a need to “drill down” into the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) report on agricultural emissions to find areas where progress has been made, according to the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA).

The EPA’s report, released yesterday, Thursday, October 24, found that agricultural emissions increased by 1.9% in 2018.

However, ICMSA president Pat McCormack said: “The devil – and the progress made – is in the detail.

There are trends developing within each sub heading that show progress. For example, the amount of emissions from lime application increased by 37.5% in the last year because farmers are actively trying to correct the soil pH.

McCormack stressed that this was a positive, as it would “reduce our dependence on nitrogen fertiliser going forward”.

The ICMSA president continued: “Our emissions from urea have increased by 8.8%. This can easily be reduced by encouraging farmers to incorporate protected urea into their fertiliser programs, which is something we have been pushing with the co-ops and merchants.”

He added that he expects emissions from nitrogen to “fall significantly” if protected urea becomes more widely available.

McCormack attributed the slight decline in emissions from manure management to the wider use of low-emission slurry spreading equipment.

“We anticipate that this is only the start of a declining trend in this area and, again, this is a declining trend that we could accelerate if the Government was prepared to look at more flexible grants and financial tools around what is prohibitively expensive machinery,” he argued.

However, the EPA’s findings on methane emissions was the most significant, according to McCormack.

“As we all know methane is our biggest contributor to GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions and is a direct consequence of increased cattle numbers. For the first time since 2012, methane emissions have stabilised. This should not be overlooked and may point to a stabilisation in herd size going forward,” he observed.

Concluding his remarks, McCormack said: “While headlines grab attention, the detail is what matters, and when you ‘drill-down’ you see that change is happening on farms nationwide and that has to be welcomed.”