It appears as if this government “is intent on penalising the agricultural sector at every turn” when it comes to the climate change agenda, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice has said.

Reacting to comments made by the Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, and the Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, at the Irish Farmers’ Association’s (IFA’s) AGM, Fitzmaurice said:

“Fianna Fail now seems to be greener than Eamon Ryan and the Green Party, only Micheál Martin is not cycling around on a bike.

“Hearing their comments yesterday [Thursday, January 28], it seems as if Fianna Fail is intent on using the climate change agenda as a stick to beat farmers with moving forward.

Instead of recognising the work that farmers are already doing, this Fianna Fail led government will move to place even more restrictions and red tape on farmers.

Questioning whether any work or research has been done to recognise the carbon sequestration value Ireland’s hedgerows provide, the Roscommon-Galway TD said:

“The Taoiseach spoke about afforestation and linking it with the upcoming Common Agricultural Policy [CAP].

“As I have said consistently in the past, I have no problem with a certain amount of forestry – but it must be evenly spread. No particular area can be unfairly targeted.

“Meanwhile, Minister McConalogue spoke about the ‘premise of a stable herd’ when it comes to the dairy sector.

“How will this impact young farmers or new entrants, who are looking to grow their business?

In the past, Fianna Fail also hung their hat on a €200 per head payment for the suckler cow – which has been forgotten about since they took office.

Claiming that farmers in rural Ireland “would be forgiven for worrying” listening to such statements, deputy Fitzmaurice said:

“When one of the only clear proposals the Taoiseach can give is to plant more trees, it doesn’t spell much hope for rural communities.

“It seems as if the agriculture sector and rural Ireland will be forced to carry the can for their urban counterparts.

“If we continue down this road, large swathes of land will be abandoned in favour of forests and carbon farming – turning rural Ireland into a theme park, only to be visited at the weekends and school holidays,” the TD claimed.

One week we are listening to news about rewetting land, the next week we are listening to reports of a scheme to chop straw into the ground. The Taoiseach stated yesterday, and I quote, that ‘agriculture is entering a decade of change’.

“Let no one be fooled, if this continues they will aim to re-wild land that farmers have reclaimed over the years.”

Accusing the government of “steadily pulling rural Ireland apart bit by bit”, the independent TD claimed:

“Some of their people were jumping up and down about Bord na Móna, but now Fianna Fail and Fine Gael seem to be letting the horticulture sector go to ruin as well – as they are not prepared to stand up to the Greens.

“Staying in government seems to be more important than looking after the people in rural Ireland,” he concluded.