The Environmental Pillar has resigned from the stakeholder committee of the Agri-Food Strategy 2030.

The pillar is a national coalition of 32 environmental groups such as An Taisce, the Irish Wildlife Trust and Friends of the Earth.

An Taisce has welcomed the Environmental Pillar in “denouncing the strategy produced by this committee as entirely inadequate to meet the social and environmental challenges facing us”.

The strategy is yet to be published, but the final draft was circulated to the committee members this month, ahead of public consultation.

In a letter to Taoiseach Micheál Martin today (Thursday, February 25), Karen Ciesielski, coordinator of the Environmental Pillar said that the strategy is “not something that myself or our members can stand over or support”.

‘A masterclass in greenwashing’

Dr. Elaine McGoff, natural environment officer with An Taisce said of the strategy document:

“This document is a masterclass in greenwashing. It uses all the right buzz words and makes claims that it will address environmental wrongs at some distant point in the future, but when you really look at what it is saying it will do and where it intends to go, it is clear that these environmental claims have no substance.

“They are just nice words on a page. We need urgent action by government, not vague aspirations from an industry-led committee.”

The industry-dominated Agri-Food 2030 committee was tasked with outlining the vision and objectives for the agri-food sector for the next decade, with the requirement to ensure the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the sector.

In the view of An Taisce, the resulting strategy document “demonstrates a significant failure to achieve those objectives”.

“This strategy unconvincingly tries to frame Ireland as a world leader in the production of sustainable food, while simultaneously continuing an over-reliance on ruminant-based agriculture for the export of meat and dairy products. This is a contradiction in terms in the view of An Taisce,” a statement from the organisation said.

The intensification of dairy production has been clearly identified as the primary driver of increased water pollution, biodiversity loss, and rapidly rising GHG and ammonia emissions, violating EU limits and the Paris Agreement alignment agreed to by Ireland. 

“The strategy provides no credible pathway to address the impact of this model on the biodiversity and climate crises, or our rapidly declining water quality. It perpetuates a system that primarily benefits and profits the agri-food industry and large landowners.

“It delays and fails to support a transition to sustainability for farmers or society. The weak measures proposed by the strategy do not come close to limiting the impact of yet more planned dairy expansion, let alone reversing the dramatic rise in agricultural pollution and environmental impacts over the past decade.”

‘Situation is so dire’

An Taisce said that the current Irish agricultural model “cannot be described as environmentally sustainable”, along with the strategy document.

“The situation is so dire that An Taisce has lodged a formal legal complaint with the EU Commission on the failures of the Irish government to monitor and remedy unforeseen environmental damage resulting from the current Food Wise 2025 Strategy. 

It is time for the government and the Minister and Department of Agriculture to accept their societal responsibility for this agricultural strategy rather than farming it out to an unaccountable committee.

“Agricultural policy needs a dramatic overhaul if we are to adequately protect the environment and support farmers at all scales.

“The Environmental Pillar repeatedly engaged with the drafting of the strategy to highlight the fundamental changes that are necessary – and the dire state of the environment that has resulted from a decade of failure.

“But, our strong scientifically-evidenced concerns have been almost entirely disregarded in the final document. As such, this is a failed process, with a hugely flawed outcome, and no credible environmental organisation would be willing to put their name to it,” the organisation claimed.

Dr. McGoff added:

“This was ultimately an undemocratic process, with the agri-food industry pulling the strings.”