An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin told the annual general meeting (AGM) of the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) today (Thursday, January 27) that the environmental questions that have been asked of agriculture in the past, will grow into the future.

“We know the threat that climate change poses. We know that we can only address it by each country playing its part in lowering their emissions, and within countries, by every sector and community.

“We are also aware of the growing questions that are being asked of the agricultural sector about its emissions. These questions will only grow and intensify in coming years as all sectors are asked to play their full part in what has to be a great national effort.

“I speak to you honestly, as a lifelong friend and champion of Irish agriculture. We are at a crossroads for Irish farming and for forestry.

“Threats and opportunities abound, but our choice now is to either honestly address the challenge that climate change poses for the sector, and together harness the opportunities that this changing context presents, or, as some voices counsel, to resist what I see is quickly becoming irresistible,” the Taoiseach added.

Taoiseach on carbon budgets

The Taoiseach continued his speech to IFA delegates by saying: “The Climate Action Plan 2021, published before Christmas, sets out indicative ranges of emissions reductions for each sector of the economy by 2030, and sets out the actions needed to deliver on our climate targets.

“Further work will be undertaken in the coming months to determine specific Sectoral Emissions Ceilings for each sector for the period from now until 2030.

“The plan sets a challenging target and set of actions for the sector but I am confident that, as we take this journey together, it can be achieved,” Martin added.

“Through the Climate Action Plan 2021 and its successors, we will empower farmers with a science-based approach, backed by robust research. Farm practices that enable farmers to produce world-class food while addressing emissions from the sector are key.

“These will involve less, and more targeted use, of chemical nitrogen while maintaining our position as global leader in grass growth through multi-species swards,” the Taoiseach added.

He said that other measures include improving the genetics of herds to reduce emissions and improve productivity. The AGM heard that more will “inevitably be asked of the sector” if these measures alone prove insufficient to meet the emissions reductions that are required.

The IFA president, Tim Cullinan told the Taoiseach at the AGM that the carbon budgets were challenging.

“We are committed to reduce emissions by 22% and that will be hugely challenging,” he explained.

Micheál Martin responded by saying it has been challenging to get to where we are at now because of where we started.

“We are not to the forefront of this, we are behind all targets and we do have to make progress.

“We will invest in research to help the sector in future. We will be meeting with Teagasc to drive this agenda,” he continued.

Cost and incentives

The IFA president pointed out that while farmers are willing to play their part, that required money and time.

“It is very important that funding is provided, but time is needed too,” he said.

“There is a cost involved but there is time involved too. Mass investment has gone into farming in recent years and this must be considered.

The Taoiseach acknowledged that funding would be needed to help farmers adapt to new ways of farming.


The IFA president urged the Taoiseach and the government to ensure that there “won’t be any blunt instrument put in front of farmers” to achieve climate measures.

The Taoiseach said that the agri-food sector’s performance highlights the resilience of the sector and that the government “intends to stand behind farmers”.

The Taoiseach continued: “Farmers are more than producers of food. They are citizens, men and women with families. They are members of communities and a society that has a vested interest in safeguarding the future of this country.

“The importance of the sector is reflected in the number of people it employs and the outputs from farms, forests and aquaculture sites,” he stated.

Additional reporting by Stella Meehan