The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said that no measure contained in the Climate Action Plan will be forced on farmers.

The plan will go before a Cabinet sub-committee tomorrow (Tuesday, December 20) before being presented to the full Cabinet for approval on Wednesday.

The document will outline measures which each sector, including agriculture, will have to undertake to achieve emissions reductions targets set down by government.

It is understood that the plan will include diversification options for farmers aiming to strengthen incomes and farm viability.

The final reports of the Food Vision dairy and beef and sheep groups, used to inform the Climate Action Plan, have both included recommendations for a herd reduction schemes.

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Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue told Agriland today:

“The agri-food sector is committed to reducing our emissions over the course of the decade by 25%. Our focus is on ensuring that agriculture continues to be a world-class producer of food while we step out our climate ambitions.

“We are finalising the details of the Climate Action Plan where we outline how we continue on the journey of being the sustainable food capital of the world.

“There will be no measure in the Climate Action Plan that will be forced upon farmers.

“All measures will be voluntary and aimed at supporting our farmers to continue to produce world-class food while also diversifying incomes streams through tillage, energy generation and forestry.

“Separately, through the Food Vision 2030 group which I established and published its report in 2021, the sector has already committed to a 10% reduction in methane by 2030. This does not directly correlate to a 10% reduction in numbers,” he said.

The minister committed to continuing to work with farming organisations and farm families to deliver on climate targets.

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President of the Irish Farmers’ Association, Tim Cullinan

Meanwhile, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has said that it has not agreed to any measures that would result in a reduction of the national herd.

The association has previously outlined that it is currently not in agreement with the final reports of the Food Vision dairy and beef and sheep groups.

“Our position is very clear and I want to be explicit with this: we have not entered into any negotiations with any minister or anybody about reducing numbers at this point in time,” IFA president Tim Cullinan said.

Cullinan told Agriland that he has major concerns about how those final reports were arrived at.

“What happened here was the minister came forward with proposals and the people sitting around the table in the group were asked to work around those proposals. That’s not negotiations. It’s not the way to do business.

“That’s the way it has been conducted and the outcome as we see if there is no agreement around it,” he said.

The IFA president said that farmers are already implementing a number of climate change mitigation measures such as reducing fertiliser use, incorporating multi-species sward and clover and improved animal genetics.

Cullinan said that farmers are right to be wary of the new Climate Action Plan.

“If you look at the [Food Vision] beef report, there are two measures in there, one is about extensification and the other is about diversification. We all know you cannot achieve either of those without reducing numbers.

“Our position is that we’re not agreeing that currently. And even if we were there is no mention of any funding around any of this yet.

“Even the measures that we are accepting, there’s going to be massive costs around those as well.”

Cullinan said that the IFA is available to reconvene a meeting with the minister to try to come to an agreement on behalf of farmers before the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

“We as farmers are engaging in the whole climate debate and are playing our part in this.

“But we need to remember where the world is at today, even from this day 12 months ago, the world is in a completely different place.

“With the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the impact that is having on food production, and on the other hand the world population is continuing to grow,” he said.