Green Party secures Minister of State for Agriculture

The appointment of Pippa Hackett as a Super Junior Minister for Agriculture yesterday, June 27, came as a surprise to many.

The senator was announced as the Green Party’s ‘Super’ Junior Minister and will take on the role of Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for Land Use and Biodiversity.

The former Green Party spokesperson for agriculture, food and the marine will now attend Cabinet meetings, but will not have a vote.

Hackett came out in support of the Programme for Government as party members voted last week, but did expect the vote to be tight.

The new portfolio of Land Use and Biodiversity sends a clear signal from the Government on its commitment to tackling climate change and the biodiversity crisis.

While many members of the agricultural community will no doubt welcome the initiative, many will also be cautious at the entrance of a Green Party member into the Department of Agriculture.

Irish farmers implementing biodiversity

Irish farmers have shown great initiative in improving biodiversity on their farms from creating habitats to planting wild bird cover and multi-species swards.

Tillage farmers have been improving rotations, planting grass margins, pollinator strips and cover crops. Some have taken further steps by companion cropping and reducing tillage and pesticide use.

Last week the Irish Grain Growers’ Group (IGGG) stated that the tillage sector needs support and called for funding for the protein payment to be increased.

Secretary of the IGGG, Clive Carter told AgriLand: “It has been a very positive scheme for tillage farmers over the past couple of years and if the Government is trying to hit the 7% reduction in emissions this is the low-hanging fruit.”

Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies

Following the release of the EU’s Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies in May Hackett stated: “It is clear that the targets set are ambitious and far-reaching. Some feel they are a stretch too far and will challenge sustainable food production, while others feel they do not go far enough.

“Nevertheless, they mark a sizable shift in the direction the EU wishes to take, and this is reflective of the views and concerns of European citizens, scientists, environmentalists and many farmers.”

She continued: “There are suggestions that changes will also be made in areas such as public procurement, competition rules, and marketing standards, which should be welcomed by many farmers; and such changes should make it easier for sustainable, local, environmentally-conscious producers to compete, and to have their efforts recognised in the price they receive.

However, I do understand the concerns from many within the agricultural sector, and how they might see the suggested measures as a threat to their livelihoods; but I think everyone now appreciates the need to work within ecological boundaries, and to work with nature, rather than forcing it to work for us.

“Therefore, farmers need to be confident that such transitions will not only be positive for climate action and biodiversity, but also farming and food production, as well as their incomes. We need all stakeholders to work together, in a collective manner like never before, for this common goal.

“It is now essential that agriculture policy reacts in a proactive way to the climate crisis, but also the biodiversity crisis. So many analyses on biodiversity data have shown significant and catastrophic declines in insect and other animal species all over the world, and indeed in Ireland too. The environmental measures under the Common Agricultural Policy have been largely ineffective at reversing such declines, and this needs to change.”

Background

The new Minister of State holds a degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Essex and completed a PhD at the University of Limerick.

The Offaly woman lives on a mixed organic farm with her family in Geashill.

Hackett ran for a seat in Dáil Éireann last spring, but did not win one of the five seats in the Laois-Offaly constituency.

She was elected to the Agricultural Panel of Seanad Éireann in November 2019.

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