The Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA) has said that it will be almost “impossible to meet the agriculture climate change targets unless the government delivers a substantially higher investment” in the sector.

President of the association, Dermot Kelleher said: “While all countries in the EU are focused on climate change, there is no country that will destroy its own vital national interests.

“Germany will not sacrifice its car or coal industries and Ireland must protect its vital agri-food sector.

“Therefore, while we all need to meet the climate change challenge, we need to move in step with other EU states. There is no point in doing more than other member states, if the price is the destruction of every rural community in the country,” he added.

Dermot Kelleher, ICSA president Image: Donal O’Leary

Emissions targets for agriculture

It emerged yesterday (Saturday, October 16) that emissions from agriculture in Ireland will have to be reduced by between 21% and 30% by 2030.

Under the national Climate Action Plan, the country will have to cut its overall emissions by 51% by the end of this decade, across all sectors of the national economy.

There has been ongoing debate – and concern – over what the burden on agriculture specifically would be.

It now appears that the agriculture sector will be expected to cut its emissions by between 21% and 30% over the next nine years, sectoral sources have indicated.

Food production and climate targets

Kelleher continued: “Producing food is not optional in a world where population continues to grow rapidly, and this means getting the balance right.

“Farmers are willing to play their part but there must be realism as well. Farmers have continuously put their money where others put their mouth, when it comes to environmental investment.

“However, the target of 21-30% reduction in emissions cannot be done by farmers out of their own pocket, nor should they be expected to carry the burden of saving the planet on their own,” Kelleher added.

The ICSA is calling for the government to put “significantly more funding” into the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) programme than had been envisaged.

The association claims that its proposals for a €15,000 agri-environment scheme and a beef carbon efficiency payment, on top of much higher supports for sucklers and sheep, are now looking like the minimum that will be required.

“This is particularly relevant in the context of maintaining a stable herd,” Kelleher said.

The ICSA president added that “if the funding for the ICSA proposals is not forthcoming, then there is no hope whatsoever of achieving these targets.” 

The association argues that the suckler herd and the beef finishing sector are “vital national assets” and are critical to many rural communities across the country.

“ICSA is prepared to negotiate on how farming can play its part, but it must be a balanced discussion that recognises that agriculture is sequestering carbon as well as reducing emissions,” Kelleher concluded.