The government has agreed to a 25% carbon emissions reduction target for the Irish agricultural sector, it has emerged this afternoon (Thursday, July 28th, 2022).
Farm organisations have reacted furiously to the announcement.
Firstly, Pat McCormack, ICMSA president, said that the decision represents a “sell-out” of the country’s family farm model.
He said it would have “wholly negative and predictable” economic, social and demographic consequences for the “massive” areas of the state that depend on farming and food production represented a ‘sell-out’ of our family farm model.
McCormack said that farmers and the communities they formed and which depended upon them, were not interested in hearing any more platitudes from politicians and groups who “professed to appreciate the dilemma faced by farming communities but who cheerfully signed-off on a policy that ‘at a stroke’ made whole classes of farms unviable”.
McCormack said that the decision to go past 22% to 25% represented much more than ‘just’ an additional 3%.
The original target was going to be very difficult but at least warranted an effort, he said.
Pushing that to a 25% reduction over an eight-year timeframe now moved policy from ‘difficult’ to ‘impossible’, he added.
He said it means that the policy was now literally incredible in that it was “not credible or possible” to have confidence in.
The farm leader stressed that the government has “badly let down” family farms and their communities.
He added that they would not be “fobbed off by vague” promises of future income streams.
25% carbon emissions reduction
Meanwhile, ICSA president Dermot Kelleher has said that the government must now insist on a complete blanket ban at EU level on meat imports from outside the EU.
He said farmers have been made to feel that the high quality, high protein, nutritious food they supply to European markets is now “something to be ashamed of”.
He argued that “it would now be hypocrisy on a grandiose scale if farmers are forced to watch beef, chicken, and dairy from all over the world being shipped into the EU on favourable terms while Irish farmers are faced with cuts”.
Kelleher described the government’s move to introduce a 25% emissions reduction in agriculture as “deeply regrettable” and “hugely challenging”.
He said there is no clear plan for farmers on how 25% can be achieved.
“When farmers have pointed this out, they have been subjected to relentless attacks by a vociferous lobby who have refused to listen to real concerns about how this can be practically achieved without destroying farm viability.”
“Farmers are already innovating in terms of being more sustainable with a lot of focus on manure management, improved genetics and reduced fertiliser and energy use.”
“A lot will depend on a viable price being paid to beef farmers to finish cattle earlier because this costs money.”
“Nonetheless, farmers have always adapted, and we know that farmers will do their best to achieve ever-greater results on producing the best, most nutritious and sustainable food in the world.”
A ‘devasting blow’ – IFA
Meanwhile, the IFA’s Tim Cullinan has described the agriculture sectoral emissions ceiling as a “potentially devastating blow for Irish farming”.
He believes the deal is “all about the survival of the Government rather than survival of rural Ireland”.
He said that the government has agreed to a target without any pathway to get there or any budget to assist farmers in reducing emissions.
“They have no idea of the economic and social impact of today’s decision on the farming sector or rural Ireland. Farmers across the country will be rightly worried about what this means for their future,” he said.”
“The implementation plan to achieve the target will be vital. I want to make it clear that any attempt to undermine farmer’s livelihoods or the viability of sector, to achieve these targets, will be opposed vigorously by the IFA,” he said.
He said the government would have to come forward with “real” proposals and “proper” funding to support climate measures, including on-farm renewable energy. and ensure that farmers get full credit for this.
The IFA is of the view that government has not complied with the requirements in the Climate Act in relation to carbon leakage and the distinct characteristics of biogenic methane.
The government, he says, will have to take this on board.
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