Future agricultural policy ‘must rely on environmental initiatives’

Future agricultural policy must have an environmental and climate change framework in order to be acceptable, according to the Minister of State for Food, Forestry and Horticulture, Andrew Doyle.

Speaking to AgriLand last week, Minister Doyle also said the grass-based production system applied in Ireland is among the greenest production systems in the world – where it is carried out correctly.

Describing a recent trip to the United Nations (UN), Minister Doyle outlined how Ireland was demonstrating its sustainability development goals on the world stage, and what steps were being taken to ensure the country meets these objectives – including helping to eliminate global hunger.

According to Minister Doyle, there was also increasing international recognition that global challenges were centred on land use, agricultural production and sustainability of the planet – with a big focus on promoting the involvement of women and young people in tackling these challenges within farming.

And while Ireland’s dairy industry would be “pretty good” in terms of meeting green initiatives through the use of carbon navigators, there was still room for the beef production system to be more efficient – particularly in terms of calving intervals and genetic improvements – the minister said.

Role of young farmers

Minister Doyle noted that young farmers in particular were increasingly aware of the importance of greening measures – in part due to the introduction of green modules into agricultural courses.

“There’s no doubt that the future of agricultural policy will have an environmental/climate change frame to it, because it won’t wash otherwise. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) won’t wash, but it’s bigger than that,” the minister said.

We would say we’re as good as anyone in dairy and we’re supposed to be the fifth most efficient in beef in Europe.

“However, the production system probably needs to be more professionalised; the system allows for it to be a lot more efficient, but I don’t think we’re achieving efficiencies in terms of calving intervals and genetic improvement, but we could do. And that’s what the Beef Data and Genomics Programme is for.

“Eventually people will see that the bottom line is improved by being more efficient anyway, so it should be more profitable. But getting people aware of that can be a challenge.

“The young farm organisations tend to get that and are very focused on that in particular. With modules from green certs and other things, people are now more aware of the whole greening and environmental thing.

“It becomes part and parcel of their training, which then becomes part of their mindset as they approach the business,” Minister Doyle concluded.