Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has confirmed the establishment of a new group with the aim of “reducing and then stabilising” emissions in the dairy sector.

Earlier today (Friday, January 28), the minister met with key stakeholders from the dairy sector to discuss the “challenging targets” for the agriculture and land use sector under the Climate Action Plan.

Minister McConalogue announced that, in line with a “priority action” in the Food Vision 2030 strategy, the ‘Food Vision Dairy Group’ would be set up, whose first task will be to “produce a detailed plan by Q2 [second quarter] 2022 to manage the sustainable environmental footprint of the dairy sector”.

“A key priority for the Food Vision Dairy Group is ensuring that we continue to provide a platform of sustainability for our farmers and our sector. This is economic, environmental and societal sustainability.”

Minister McConalogue confirmed that the new group will be chaired by former Teagasc director Prof. Gerry Boyle, and will include representatives from the farming organisations, the dairy industry, the department and relevant agencies.

He went on to say that he wanted to assure stakeholders that he was confident that “working together we can stabilise and then reduce emissions from the dairy sector, positioning Ireland as a world leader in sustainable food systems; meeting our climate targets; and ensuring that the market delivers a reward for our quality, sustainably produced food, particularly for our farmers”.

“We want to ensure that we continue to have a sector that is vibrant and attractive to new entrants. We have to think about how we ensure that there is space for generational renewal and new entrants to the sector, or for those with marginal enterprises to improve viability, and space to encourage innovation and value addition.”

The minister said that an “essential first step” is to develop and implement a plan to stabilise and then reduce emissions associated with the dairy sector.

“That will give sufficient headroom for the measures in the Climate Action Plan, and the supports for farmers in the draft CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] Strategic Plan, to work effectively,” he argued.

The first meeting of the Food Vision Dairy Group is set to take place in early February.