Macra na Feirme has outlined concerns regarding planning delays, and the resultant implications which affect young farmers investing in their industry at a meeting with An Taoiseach, Micheal Martin, and Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.

The association said that these delays pose a significant risk to the aims of generational renewal. 

Planning delays

Current Macra na Feirme president, Thomas Duffy, highlighted the need for investment in facilities to diversify dairy product output in the face of Brexit to protect the long-term viability of rural areas, family farms and the dairy sector. 

Also highlighted by the association’s president was the impact of a move away from summer production of milk as a result of limitations on processing capacity.  

“This discussion was not about any individual cases, but the need for government to ensure the sector is able to operate and invest, supporting family farms,” Duffy said.

“The risk of unintended consequences of such limitations were raised with An Taoiseach and Minister for Agriculture. A move away from the dominant grass-based system practiced on the majority of Irish dairy farms would undermine our environmental credentials. 

“As demonstrated by Teagasc figures, moving the supply of milk towards housed systems could increase emissions per kg of milk by as much as 20%. 

Greater production of milk from the housed period will result in greater amounts of slurry, which despite significant investment by farmers in low emissions slurry spreading [LESS] technology, will increase ammonia emissions,” Duffy added.

‘Not about expansion’

Duffy continued: “This is not about expansion. We talk about a ‘Just Transition’ in many sectors; well there is simply nothing ‘just’ in actions forcing farmers away from a more sustainable and economically viable system to one that will leave them worse off and with bigger risks.

“There is a legal right to make submissions, but the delayed nature of the entire planning process has meant that a delay is as good as a win and that must be addressed,” he concluded.

Duffy will soon be replaced as president of Macra Na Feirme by John Keane who won the contest for the role.

Keane, from the Devil’s bit Macra club in north Tipperary, won the election in a landslide victory earlier this week, securing 105 votes of the 117 ballots cast for president.