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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘We won’t have as many cattle, but we will have greater income’ – Ryan

“I think agriculture and transport are two areas that are going to be the most difficult. There is a real challenge in agriculture, but I believe that we can deliver it in a way that provides a higher income to Irish farmers.”

Those were the words of Minister for the Environment, Climate  Communications, and Transport, Eamon Ryan, who appeared on Virgin Media’s The Tonight Show last night (Tuesday, July 12th, 2022).

Irish farmers

He told listeners that we will have to “go further” in agriculture in a way that works particularly for a new generation of young farmers, so “we retain family farms and give a good income to family farm people on the back of protecting and storing nature”.

“The key way of us making this change will come from various measures. Firstly, really developing forestry in a way that it fits in with farming,” he explained.

“Not that we are covering every farm in trees, but stitching in native forests within our farming system and giving an income to farmers for that.”

Emissions and land use

While the required reduction in agricultural emissions has not been agreed upon, he believes that the figure will have to be “towards 30%”, unlike the DAFM’s call for a cut of 22%.

He explained that the government is currently conducting a review on how we use our land.

“That, which is halfway through, will be critical to work out where is the best place to put these new forests, how we do store carbon in our peaty soils, and how we reward the type of farming that helps us meet the targets.”

“We will learn by doing and continue to evolve. If we do not meet the targets, we change policies. This is going to be a changing policy approach to make sure we get there.”

Cutting the national herd

The presenter then asked Minister Ryan if “cutting the herd is off the table for you”, to which he replied: “the scale of changes we will not work if this is about decisive politics, blaming one side versus the other”.

“Darren [O Rourke] and I will work together on this because what he and others on the Climate Change Committee are doing is central to our approach.”

The presenter then pressed the minister to clarify his position to which he said: “I agree with what the committee Darren is on, with one of the ways we can create incomes for farmers is using AD so some of the grass we are currently giving to cattle, goes instead to create our own gas, so we do not have to buy imported gas.”

“We won’t have as many cattle, but we will have a greater income, and that is the sort of choices that I think we need to make.”

“We will have to switch and change Irish agriculture. It will introduce a whole new string of income and diversification, which would see a lower number in the herd, but the critical thing is that it has a higher income to farmers, and that is what matters,” he concluded.

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