Mixed reactions to Climate Action Plan from farm groups

Following the revelation today of the Government’s Climate Action Plan, a number of farm organisations have made their views clear on what the plan means for the sector.

The leaders of these groups all agree that incentives will be needed to allow farmers meet the challenge of reducing agriculture-related emissions.

If that happened, then farmers will play their part, the organisation said.

ICMSA

The Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) acknowledged that the targets would be “very challenging” but that farmers would be part of the solution if the Government provides the necessary support.

Association president Pat McCormack said that the Government needed to “fully support and underwrite the developments” of renewable energy options which, he said, would make a “critical contribution” to climate change commitments.

The Government’s previous efforts on renewables have fallen short and had, in some cases, left farmers who had invested in equipment ‘high and dry’ when incentives and schemes were discontinued.

He stressed that this “could not happen again”.

McCormack also pointed out that increased costs of production on the farmer will lead to higher food prices, and he questioned if other parts of society fully understood this.

“Farmers will play our part but it’s up to the Government to drive and incentivise the policies. That has to mean real support for renewables and carbon-mitigation efforts, with the Government actively helping by giving farmers options and not just standing back while issuing targets, deadlines and penalties,” he concluded.

ICSA

Meanwhile, Eddie Punch, the general secretary of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association (ICSA), also said that farmers would respond to the “right incentives”.

“ICSA believes that it makes much more sense to produce livestock in a sustainable way from Irish grassland, rather than relocate it to South America where the potential environmental impact of increased productivity is much more damaging,” he argued.

However, Punch highlighted that the costs of implementing the plan on farms cannot be carried by farm families.

“Future agri-environment schemes need to be a lot more like REPS [Rural Environment Protection Scheme], and a lot less like GLAS [Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme], in terms of ensuring that those who participate are paid for their costs and for their labour,” he stressed.

The ICSA general secretary – speaking in the absence of an association president before the June 27 election – called for biogas to be produced on Irish farms, which would be a “win-win” for rural communities.

He concluded by attacking EU plans to do a deal with Mercosur – the South American trading block – saying: “It makes no sense to bring in more beef and other agricultural products from South America while pressing EU farmers to reduce emissions. Cutting down rainforests in South America and then blaming Irish farmers for climate change is illogical.”

IFA

Joe Healy, the president of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), noted that the Teagasc Climate Roadmap could play a part in emissions reduction, as long as there was a “whole-of-Government” approach to its implementation.

“The critical issue for farm families is that our low-carbon agri-food sector, which is Ireland’s largest indigenous sector, is fully recognised and not jeopardised by this climate plan,” he said.

“On dairy farming, the removal of quotas in 2015 has released pent-up demand for expansion. While this has had an effect on emissions, it has also had a very positive impact for farm families and rural Ireland. We must not forget that we are the most carbon efficient country in Europe for dairy production,” outlined Healy.

Turning to beef farming, Healy argued that reducing the suckler herd would have “huge consequences” for the economic sustainability of rural Ireland.

Healy also reiterated the point about a possible Mercosur deal, saying: “Farmers cannot understand why the EU is hellbent on doing a trade deal with South America, which will see more Brazilian beef coming into Europe. Beef from Brazil has four times the carbon footprint as beef from Ireland.”

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