President: More can be done to harness farmers’ goodwill

President Michael D. Higgins has raised doubts about current environmental policies, saying they may not be doing enough to “harness the goodwill of farmers” in biodiversity protection.

In a speech delivered today (Thursday, February 21) at the National Biodiversity Conference, held in Dublin Castle, the president questioned if these policies were making the best use of public money, and if farmers could be better encouraged to get on board in terms of biodiversity protection.

“I do wonder, however, whether we are making best use of the significant level of public money that is being spent on environmental measures in the agricultural sector, and whether we are doing enough to harness the goodwill of farmers towards biodiversity protection,” argued President Higgins.

Farmers and foresters must be clearly encouraged away from what we know are damaging practices and encouraged towards farming in harmony with nature.

He also highlighted that the assessments of environmental benefits for European farming subsidies has been “historically weak”.

The president argued that there is “a critical role for the European Commission and for our own authorities in creating the context in which Irish farmers can move quickly towards truly sustainable agriculture”.

President Higgins highlighted successful farmer-led biodiversity initiatives as a way to demonstrate that farmers have a leading role to play in the protection of nature.

“The success of the innovative farmer-led programmes, such as the BurrenLIFE and AranLIFE [projects] must be recognised; where the important role of farmers, as custodians of the land, was acknowledged and respected,” he said.

According to the president, these projects also show how the EU and Irish Government departments can also cooperate on the issue.