IFA to host ‘Climate Action in Agriculture’ event tomorrow

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) is set to host an event tomorrow, Tuesday, January 21, in an effort to “rebalance the debate around climate action”.

The event is titled ‘Climate Action in Agriculture – A Balanced Approach’ and will feature “one of the foremost experts in the world on the important role of farming in the climate debate”, according to the IFA.

Dr. Frank Mitloehner from UC Davis, California, will be the keynote speaker at the event and will “bring balance, with scientific evidence, to the discussion about the contribution of agriculture to the climate challenge”.

Other speakers at the event will include Prof. John Fitzgerald, chair of the Climate Change Advisory Council (CCAC), and Teagasc’s Dr. Frank O’Mara.

Speaking in advance of the event, outgoing IFA president, Joe Healy, said: “Farmers are tired of being kicked around and scapegoated when it comes to climate action.

“The lack of balance in the debate is very frustrating for Irish farmers, given the high standards we adhere to and the quality of the food we produce.

For example, 90% of Ireland’s beef exports are now in an audit and carbon footprinting programme and 100% of milk production is completing a carbon auditing cycle.

“This is unique – we are the only country in the world that measures, monitors and manages carbon from farm to fork. Yet we are constantly being pilloried for not doing enough.”

Concluding, the IFA president said: “We hope that this event will help in rebalancing what is currently a very one-sided debate.”

GHG emissions from beef

In May last year, AgriLand caught up with Dr. Frank Mitloehner while he was speaking at ONE19: The Alltech Ideas Conference.

At the conference, he presented data that now indicates that the US beef industry is a small contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when compared to other sectors.

Both in the US, and indeed in Ireland, the finger has been routinely pointed at beef – albeit at different scales and production systems.

“The carbon footprint of beef is a hot topic at the moment – everybody is talking about it. For many industries, this is the main driver to get people to buy their product,” Dr. Mitloehner explained.

For example, plant-based protein companies are saying that you should buy their product as an alternative to beef because beef has a carbon footprint that is just atrocious.

And, the lack of data on the topic has made the US beef industry an easy target. Now, data indicates that only a small proportion of GHG emissions stem from the beef supply chain.

Dr. Mitloehner explained: “The total GHG emissions of the entire beef supply chain – both direct and indirect – is 3.3% of US GHG emissions, including the growing of forages, belching, manure, transportation of products, etc.

For those who say that beef produces more GHG than any other activity in the US, you should know by now that is not true.

He added that direct GHG emissions (excluding indirect emissions) from the transport sector in the US accounts for 28% and all fossil fuel consuming industries produce 80% of all GHG emissions.

If we compare this to Ireland, the total GHG emissions stemming from the agriculture sector (all enterprises) is approximately 33.3%, while the transportation sector contributes approximately 20%.