Farming sustainably needs to be financially viable for the farmer and for this to happen, every link in the food chain must work, according to Matteo Bartolini, President of the European Young Farmers Association (CEJA).

He was speaking at the Macra na Feirme annual conference in Laois at the weekend and said that we cannot expect young farmers invest a lot to make farming more sustainable and keep them deprived from financial backing. “It is crucial that young farmers get the support necessary to access liquidity. It is also crucial to ensure that young farmers can enter the sector to promote environmentally-friendly practices to ensure its future.”

His sentiments were echoed by Oisin Coghlan of Friends of the Earth. “I  absolutely agree that sustainability has to be economically and socially sound.”

However, he said that Ireland has taken its green image for granted over the years. “It’s assumed that we are environmentally green. We are one of the few territories in the world with less population than 100 years ago.” However, he also said that Ireland is sixth in the world when it comes to polluting. “If everyone in the world polluted like we do we’d need three planets to cope with it.”

He said that agricultural emissions have reduced and agriculture is where we are seeing real efforts to reduce emissions. “We now need to see it spread out across the whole sector.”

Mairead McGuinness said that ‘sustainable intensification of agriculture’ are the key buzz words at the moment, but it can be achieved by getting good science and applying it on farms.