Minister on dairy expansion: Ag Climatise ‘based on premise of stable herd’

The climate action roadmap for the Irish agricultural sector, Ag Climatise, is based on “the premise of a stable herd”, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue has said.

The minister was commenting on the “need for mature discussion” around the topic of continued dairy expansion when speaking at the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) virtual annual general meeting today (Thursday, January 28).

Commenting on the Ag Climatise strategy, Minister McConalogue said:

While the roadmap sets out a long-term vision towards climate neutrality in 2050, we cannot be complacent on the timelines around this.

Calling on everyone to “play their part”, he said: “Early action is needed by every farmer in the country if we are to be successful in achieving our climate goals.

“While there are many asks of farmers, I think the number one thing we need to do is improve nitrogen use efficiency on farm.

“We and the advisory services will support you on this journey. Ultimately, by widespread adoption of this action, and by reducing chemical nitrogen use, we will not only improve the environmental footprint of agriculture, we will also improve farm profitability.

Significant expansion has occurred in the dairy industry over recent years. I believe we are approaching a need for a mature discussion on the continued focus on additional cows from here on out.

“The AgClimatise roadmap is based on the premise of a stable herd. We must live within our overall climate commitments and importantly, the environmental cost associated with increasing output by some farmers cannot be transferred to all other farmers.

“It will be difficult to achieve stable methane if dairy cow numbers continue to increase over the years ahead,” the minister warned.

“That’s why it is critical we protect farm incomes while also enhancing our reputation as being a leader in the climate change area.”

Turning to the opportunities in the area of climate action, Minister McConalogue said:

I am particularly keen to explore the whole area of carbon farming, although it will take some time for clarity to emerge on this.

“As you know, it is referenced in the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and I will be keeping a close eye on developments in Brussels and beyond in relation to this.

“We have opportunities to make our increased climate ambitions work for farmers too especially through measuring and appreciating the excellent work farmers are currently doing in the whole area of biodiversity and the climate,” the minister concluded.