The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) has said that the broad outlines of the ‘Roadmap towards Climate Neutrality’ were “well advertised” and farmers would have “little difficulty accepting the scale of the challenges” or the need for decisive measurable remedial actions.

President of the ICMSA Pat McCormack said that what farmers would have problems with is a ‘roadmap’ that featured “page after page of likely new duties, regulations, and costs” on farmer primary-producers without mentioning the reformation of margins, in what he described as “an economically broken and environmentally destructive supply-chain to the consumers”.

McCormack said that the roadmap “persisted with the delusion that all the necessary change to our farming and food production system could happen from the supermarket loading-bay backwards to the farm”.

This, he said, was the “fundamental mistake” that ensured that this project could never have the total ‘buy-in’ that would give it a chance of success.

Current low consumer prices

McCormack said that the ICMSA was “absolutely convinced” that any plan to push through the kinds of measures outlined in Ag Climatise, that did not start with a recognition of the current artificially low price of food to the consumer, was both “doomed to failure and inherently unfair”.

“We have to get away from this myth that all the necessary change is going to happen from the supermarket fridges backwards and that the consumers – and their artificially low prices – will remain untouched.

This myth that loads all the responsibility for the transition to low emissions food production onto the farmers has just got to be exposed and challenged – everyone is going to have to pay something and I specifically mean the consumer who has been underpaying for their food for 30 years.

“So, let’s start with a commitment that the consumer is going to go back to paying the real price of food and work backwards from that,” McCormack added.

“Instead of the ‘cart-before-horse’ model that we see in Ag Climatise, where the premise is that the system keeps going with under-priced food at retail level and all the costs are loaded onto the farmers who will be expected, effectively, to carry the can – pun intended – for everyone else; processor retailer and consumer.

Ag Climatise is 30 pages long and there’s not a single mention in there of the fundamental requirement to start with that real price of food at retail level and work backwards from that.

“We can’t go forward on that basis, where there’s no recognition of the core problem and where, instead of that recognition, we just load more and more useless regulations and additional paperwork on farmers with some handily vague commitments to support farming and energy renewables,” McCormack concluded.