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‘If the cost of producing food is going to go up, then direct supports need to increase’

ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, discusses the emissions reduction target for agriculture. 

The reported emissions reduction target for agriculture will be a huge challenge and one that can only be contemplated – much less achieved – with massive support and commitment from every level of government in Ireland.

The ICSMA is convinced that it is possible to continue developing our farming sector while simultaneously cutting agricultural emissions.

The notion that farming had to come to a ‘full stop’ while the emission lowering programme accelerated is neither possible nor even desirable.

The sector needed an approach to the transition that was flexible and responsive to a situation that I was certain would change dramatically as already introduced measures fed through.

A whole spectrum of measures and practices will lead to reduced emissions, and that trend would accelerate.

In that context, it would be both prudent and practical to keep a degree of flexibility that would allow us to adjust our programme on an ongoing basis.

It would be a fundamental error to lock a dynamic farming and food production sector into a rigid five-year programme.

We think that the worst thing Irish farming and agri-food can do now is nail ourselves to a rigid programme that we all know will be overtaken by science and data over the next few years.

We already know that the reductions under the Teagasc MACC will be delivered. Also, we already know that research is well underway on similar projects that will lower emissions without affecting cow numbers and production volumes.

ICMSA believes that this has to be a ‘moving target’ scenario where we can all see over a three-year period where the data is going and where we will have to go harder maybe or ease back.

Budgets

In terms of government support, if the level of support we got in last week’s Budget was any indicator, Ireland hasn’t a hope of hitting these reductions.

There’s a time when the government has to stop preaching and start spending. We are at the point now – in fact, we passed it some time ago.

Direct supports to farmers are being cut relentlessly at the same time as we have this curious official reluctance to ensure that farmers receive the real price for their food products.

The government either can’t or won’t confirm the end of the ‘cheap food’ policy because they are nervous about the current inflationary trend.

But something’s got to give here: if the cost of producing food is going to go up – and it most certainly is – then direct supports need to increase. Furthermore, prices farmers receive will have to go up.

It’s a very basic economic sequence. The government’s nervousness about recognising it is the rock on which all this will flounder.

We are expecting an announcement on CAP spending on Wednesday.

Farmers and rural Ireland, in general,  will be perfectly positioned to measure the government’s commitment and whether or not the major support programme for agriculture that is clearly required is going to happen.

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