IFA and ICMSA presidents respond to EPA report

Two of the country’s leading farmer representative groups have reacted strongly to the release of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report this morning, Thursday, October 24.

The EPA found that Ireland’s agricultural emissions increased by 1.9% in 2018, which the agency attributed to continued increases in dairy cow numbers.

However, Joe Healy, president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), and Pat McCormack, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) both argued that the report didn’t reflect other important figures.

Speaking to AgriLand today, Healy said: “First of all, everybody looks at the 1.9% increase in agricultural emissions, and that is there. But I think we need to keep things in perspective here.

Since 1990, agricultural output has increased by 40%, and we’ve only increased our emissions by 1%.

“You take that and you compare it to transport, where emissions have increased by 137%,” Healy highlighted.

The IFA president continued: “Actually, since 2010, the emissions per kilogram of beef has dropped by 37%, and the emissions per kilogram of dairy product has dropped by 27%.

“That doesn’t mean that we’ve nothing to do. We have a lot to do, absolutely. I think we can build on the successes that we’ve had so far, whether that was the use of technology, the use of science, the use of genetics or the use of good advice,” he continued.

We are now probably the only sector to have a 10-year ‘roadmap’ ahead of us with the Teagasc climate abatement plan. Within that plan they’ve highlighted the fact that Irish agriculture can further reduce its emissions by 9 million tonnes, or over a third, over the next 10 years, if the proper supports and proper infrastructure are put in place.

“That’s where Government comes in,” Healy argued, calling on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to lead a “whole-of-Government approach to the entire area of climate change in agriculture, and to put supports in place”.

‘Agriculture continues to be in a vulnerable position’

Also speaking to AgriLand, ICMSA president McCormack stressed: “Agriculture continues to be in a vulnerable position.

“I don’t mean that from an environmental point of view, I mean that from an accountancy point of view, given that it’s the main economic driver in 25 out of the 26 counties,” McCormack argued.

He also pointed out that, unlike most other developed countries, where a greater proportion of emissions would come from heavy industry and manufacturing sectors, Ireland does not have those industries to “dilute” agricultural emissions.

We’ve seen huge progress in the production levels that we have here in this country, with the minimum of environmental impact.

“We are the most efficient producer of dairy products in Europe, and we’re in the top 5 from the beef perspective,” the ICMSA president highlighted.

“Global population is growing, demand is growing, and we are in a unique position of being efficient from an environmental aspect and [being able] to produce that food,” McCormack concluded.

Healy and McCormack were speaking at the launch of ‘Meat and Dairy Facts‘, a new cross-industry group aiming to promote meat and dairy products.